Rising Together
Neighborhoods Step Up to Take Next Detroit Beyond Bankruptcy and Blight

Message from Tonya Allen

Time for Our Detroit to come together to move graduation rate to 90 percent

Aarion Vinson graces our cover this year in her black leotard. She’s 7 years old, and dances nearly every day at the Brightmoor Community Center through an excellent youth development program called D.A.N.C.E. Aarion loves to dance. She says that dancing makes her feel happy, makes her forget her problems.

Like too many children in Detroit, the problems in Aarion’s life are real. She has lost two siblings to tragic deaths. She sometimes hears gunshots in her neighborhood. And in the last year, her father, Aaron Vinson, was shot five times trying to break up a fight. He survived, but scars remain, under his bandages and on his daughters, who talk fearfully about how it happened. It’s the kind of knowledge no 7-year-old should have.

When you ask Aarion what she dreams for Detroit, she describes a carnival. But in her next breath, she speaks beyond her years, saying she hopes for more jobs and safer streets.

I want Aarion to feel safe in her neighborhood. I want her to feel like she has great education options right in her neighborhood as well as across the city. I want her to feel happy and carefree all the time, not just when she’s dancing.

Next Detroit:

In Cody Rouge, a glimpse of what the city can be post-bankruptcy

If Mayor Mike Duggan were to ask Kenyetta Campbell how to build a vibrant post-bankruptcy Detroit, she would escort him to the new mosaic mural on Elmira Street in the Cody Rouge neighborhood.

The mural, made of jagged cuts of found porcelain and glass, was quietly dedicated in September. It stands bolted to two wooden posts, behind a fence just in front of Horace Mann Elementary School. It does not tower. Its colors, subtle hues of blue, green and yellow, do not scream.

In fact, to see what Campbell sees, you must fix your eyes beyond the maze of shapes, past the ring of smiling faces, up to the very top of the mural. The two words found there, she says, provide the best possible blueprint for Detroit's future as it moves beyond bankruptcy: Children First.

The mural is one of thousands of projects and investments that have grown out of the Skillman Foundation's work in six Detroit neighborhoods, of which Cody Rouge is one. Campbell, the executive director of

How different are Old Detroit and New Detroit really?

There are differences, certainly; but overall, the two parts of Detroit that so many consider distinct are more alike than you'd assume. Our Detroit is in many ways already a reality.

Program Areas


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Brightmoor Community Center
Located right across from Gompers Elementary School, this community center is a hub of activity for adults and youth alike, with everything from daily art to dance classes. The Community Center almost closed in recent years due to a lack of funding. But under the leadership of Executive Director Dennis Talbert, its doors are open and girls like our three cover models, members of the D.A.N.C.E. program that practices at the Center six days a week, are doing better because of it.
Brenda Scott Academy
Brenda Scott, an EAA elementary-middle school in the Osborn neighborhood, has exemplified the way a school can work with community on the common goal of improving outcomes for kids. A parent engagement project in Brenda Scott has volunteers in the school throughout the day who serve as guides and touch points for other parents who come in with questions. The school has partnered with the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance on a number of initiatives, including attending CompStat data meetings to ensure kids walking to and from its grounds are safer.
Brightmoor Farmway
Drive through Brightmoor, and you might be surprised to feel like you're in some faraway country setting, not a neighborhood of a major urban city. That's due in part to the Farmway, led by Riet Schumack, which is a collection of community-owned gardens on once-abandoned or blighted lots. The Farmway spans 21 blocks and features dozens of gardens, orchards, mini-parks and meeting spots.
Cody High School
It wasn't long ago that this school was deemed a "drop-out factory." The ugly label no longer applies. The graduation rates are up at the Cody High campus after it was converted into three small high schools in 2009. In 2013, the three schools had a combined 74 percent graduation rate — well ahead of the rate for the rest of the city. Thanks to the partnership with nonprofit Life Remodeled, the schools inside Cody now have a new medical simulation lab and a leadership lab.
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Don Bosco Hall
The Community Resource Center in the Cody Rouge neighborhood is teeming with activity and enrichment for children nearly around the clock. Led by President & CEO Charles Small, it houses a small charter school called the WAY Academy, is home to the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance, and to a plethora of youth programming, including to Developing K.I.D.S. and PEEPs.
Located in the Northend neighborhood, YouthVille also led by Small is another example of a hub. In one building right on Woodward Ave., you have the YouthVille facility, a youth development operation with robotics and STEM programs, a music studio, a computer lab and even a TV station. And down the hall is Plymouth Educational Center, a charter school that has had high graduation and college-acceptance rates in its first few years of operation.
Southwest Detroit Lighthouse Academy
It has been difficult to lure high-quality national charter operators to Detroit for a variety of reasons, ranging from an over-saturated market to lack of ready-to-move-in real estate. But there are successes, and Lighthouse in Chadsey Condon is one. Lighthouse operates schools in seven states, and opened its doors in Detroit in 2013 in a newly built facility. The school offers a rigorous curriculum infused with arts and has more than 350 students in grades K-6. It will add one grade each year until it is a full K-12.
Detroit Cristo Rey High School
The private Catholic high school formed in Southwest Detroit in 2008 and graduated its first class in 2012. With three graduation classes under its belt, Cristo Rey, led by Principal Michael Khoury, can boast that it has 100 percent college acceptance since its founding. The kids at Cristo Rey go to school four days a week and work in an internship program the fifth day, which subsidizes tuition and gives the student real-world working experience.
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Vice President of Program & Policy Kristen McDonald shares insights into how many of the places on the map, created by illustrator and College for Creative Studies graduate Meredith Moitke, are important to the neighborhoods where we work.