Pursing their passion: Metro Detroit Youth Clubs partner with Wayne State’s CHAMPS program to give students a promising future

When two life-changing programs join forces, good things are sure to come about. Such is the case when Metro Detroit Youth Clubs  (MDYC) recently partnered with Wayne State University’s  Champions Aspiring to Make Pathways to Success (CHAMPS) program to give students scholarships, mentorship, and other resources. Brett Tillander, President and Chief Executive Officer of MDYC, has been with the organization for 22 years.

“I enjoy supporting people who are transforming their lives and watching them reach their full potential. It’s inspiring to see people move forward and invest in the community,” Tillander said.

Degrees of Opportunity (DOO), a program within the MDYC, provides financial and other needed support to students over a four-year period. Currently, a total of 49 are in the program, including seven from WSU. DOO provides up to $2,000 for academic support (including tutoring), up to $2,000 for basic needs such as backpacks, clothing, and transportation costs, and a $5,000 scholarship divided over the four years and payable when students turn in their annual school transcript showing they earned credit. Students also get a MacBook, wireless printer, and an iPad.

DOO is primarily funded by individual donations but is also supported by corporate donors and foundations.

MDYC luncheon
Brett Tillander (far right) speaking to students at the MDYC's Degrees of Opportunity Luncheon

Launched in the WSU School of Social Work in 2011 under the name Transition to Independence (TIP) program, the CHAMPS program was re-imagined in 2018 as a college access and retention program for youth ages 18- 23 who have "aged out" of the child welfare system and/or juvenile justice system and are enrolled undergraduate level students at WSU. The CHAMPS Program exists to increase college access and improve the graduation rates of youth with foster care and juvenile justice experience. WSU School of Social Work (SSW) Associate Professor, Judith Wineman, is director of CHAMPS, while Marla Garmo serves as its campus coach.

“For students with lived experience in foster care and the juvenile justice system, obtaining a quality education is difficult,” stated Garmo. “Youth from foster care change residences an average of three times per year and are twice as likely to repeat a grade when compared to their non-foster care peers. The lack of a consistent home for youth in foster and juvenile justice has long-standing effects on one’s education journey, with less than 10% of students from foster care earning a bachelor's degree by the age of 25. CHAMPS aims to improve these statistics.”

The DOO-CHAMPS partnership began last December.

Tillander, impressed by the CHAMPS program, thought the alliance made sense. “When you look at what these WSU students have done—they are incredibly resilient. Most people would not be able to continue their journey. To be able to support them is what we aim to do, and we feel very good about that,” Tillander said.

Tillander worked with Garmo on selecting students to participate in the DOO program, who will be chosen annually going forward.

Eliza Burnett
Wayne State undergraduate history and CHAMPS student, and MDYC scholarship recipient Elizah Davis Burnett

“Brett and I chose students in their first and second years that are historically underserved. These students remain in the DOO program until they graduate. The impact fills many gaps as it adds to their support network of individuals that believe in their success as well as by providing the financial and technology that eases their burdens. By connecting students with valuable resources, we are making sure that have all the tools they need to be successful and reach graduation,” Garmo said.

One such recipient, WSU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Bachelor of Arts in History on the pre-law track student Elizah Davis Burnett, is grateful for the program.

“Thanks to the MDYC and the scholarship, I’ve been able to stay up-to-date and excel in my classes. The scholarship has helped me afford this semester’s books and the technology package has taken some of the burden off my plate when it comes to successful studying,” Burnett said.

Precious Floraday, a first-year WSU Department of Communication Broadcast Journalism student, is another program recipient.

Precious Floraday
Wayne State undergraduate broadcast journalism and CHAMPS student, and MDYC scholarship recipient Precious Floraday

“I can’t imagine where I would be right now if I didn’t receive this scholarship! Receiving the scholarship from the MDYC has helped with tuition and other expenses. If I had any advice for anyone out there applying to scholarships, I would say take those long nights and write those essays, because everything pays off. I appreciate all that this has done for me, making sure that I have everything I need including a computer and printer,” Floraday said.

“This partnership has the potential to greatly improve the lives of some of our students with a combination of financial resources, program supports, and mentorship. We are very grateful!” noted Sheryl Kubiak, Dean of the SSW.

Over the years, Tillander has kept up with many of the students MDYC has helped.

“We helped two students who emigrated from Iraq at ages six and eight, and now they both have their own dental practices. It’s wonderful to see the kids who come through our organization thrive and take advantage of opportunities,” he said.

Tillander is eager to follow WSU students in the DOO program as well.

“I’m excited to see what they’ll do in the future,” he said.

Click here to learn more about CHAMPS and here to make a donation. To learn more about MDYC visit www.miclubs.org, and to donate click here. Those interested in establishing a scholarship within the WSU School of Social Work should contact Individual Giving Officer Theresa Port at 313-577-4429 or theresa.port@wayne.edu.

Author: Laura Hipshire laurahipshire@wayne.edu

Faculty spotlight

← Back to listing