Everyone's talking academic success in Detroit, it seems. In April, Detroit Public Schools announced the "Neighborhood-Centered, Quality Schools" initiative to improve quality of education and life for under-served students and schools. Businesses are coming on board to help fund DPS's community extension services. JPMorgan Chase granted $1.5 million to nonprofits working in economically disadvantaged schools in Southwest Detroit, says the Detroit News. One group, Minority Males for Higher Education (MMHE), is thinking school (and life) success at the wardrobe level with its Project Pinstripes program, says the Detroit Free Press.
Success is about educational achievement, self-confidence, and forward thinking. It's about looking the part, too. Look at any gathering of leaders, and what do you see? Well-groomed people, suits and ties, professional attire -- these are the accessories of success. But if you're a young, disadvantaged, minority man, you probably have little chance of accessing those. Happily, a helping hand may be all it takes. Minority Males for Higher Education has been hosting an annual Project Pinstripes suit giveaway since 2005. The group collects gently used business suits and clothing, tailors and cleans them, and distributes to area boys. Young men are taught how to wear, maintain, and clean garments.
Confidence and Empowerment
Suits are distributed to boys at YouthVille Detroit, an inner-city youth outreach center. With new clothes and style tips, students get mentoring, support, and encouragement. Styling for success won't automatically guarantee it, project coordinators tell students. Clothing is the paint job. The real work happens under the hood. And kids are rising to that challenge. Some who weren't planning to attend college after graduation are rethinking it, reports the Detroit Free Press.
MMHE provides a network of educational upward mobility boosts to youth with fewer supports. Edmund P. Lewis Jr., the man behind MMHE, explained, "The mission is to expose African American males to opportunities that decrease high school dropouts while simultaneously increasing college enrollment and retention. To help our young black men become successful, we (older black men) must exemplify what it means to be successful, while also letting them know what it takes to get to where we are."
Lewis recently received Crain's Detroit's prestigious "Twenty in Their 20s" award, which recognizes young self-starters, movers, and shakers. Lewis is owner/operator of Style Guy'd, a fashion consulting/public speaking organization. Lewis credits positive male role models with lighting his educational spark. Now, he's paying that forward. MMHE's Facebook page lists employment opportunities, educational and scholarship opportunities, partnerships, internships, motivational speakers, networking opportunities, and events. It connects minority boys with specific resources based on need. Crain's says Lewis brought in $1.1 million in funding and coordinated 250 volunteers to build a playground at Rouge Park.
Changing Clothes, Changing Minds
Along with new suits, boys got insight into what drives success with Project Pinstripes. Lewis clued them in that "success is uncomfortable," says the Detroit Free Press.
DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts spoke to that theme, too, when he announced the district's new initiative. The district's new community schools model, he said, should "dramatically change our mindsets." He linked change-oriented thinking with improved academic outcomes. He exhorted communities to be courageous and step beyond comfort zones.
A certified teacher and Michigan native, Marilisa Sachteleben writes about educational issues in her state's most pivotal city of Detroit.
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