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Career Day and the Metro Detroit Youth Club.

A worthwhile partnership.

The partnership between the Metro Detroit Youth Club and Continuum Services began in 2019. Both Brett Tillander, CEO of MDYC, and Ted Spicer had big plans. Then, Covid put plans on hold. Lately, the relationship has been reenergized. One big jumpstart took place recently with the inaugural Career Day on October 18. Through the efforts of a team led by Continuum’s Accounting Manager Suzanne Zavala and Rachel Frank, MDYC’s Director of Impact & Innovation, our home office hosted 13 middle and high school students for a day of fun and learning. Youth club members learned about Continuum Services, what to do in job interviews and enjoyed one-on-one time with our team, learning their career stories. Games, food and fun rounded out the successful day.

When you start to have options, you begin to have hope.

“We won’t know when the seeds that get planted on a day like Career Day will grow,” said Brett. “But to look at the variety of trades and career paths the kids were exposed to, the opportunity to meet members of the Continuum team who look like them and sound like them…the day was invaluable.” The impact, in fact, was immediate. “One of our kids was excited about the HVAC side and said going to a job like that every day would be great!”

Simply exposing kids to what is possible generates thinking and can shape decisions. “To have the support of Ted and everyone else who was there that day was amazing. You could feel the enthusiasm just growing throughout the day,” said Brett. He is moved by all the good people who took the time to be there. “Making the experience fun will solidify that memory for the kids.”

About Metro Detroit Youth Club.

The Metro Detroit Youth Club has been around for 65 years. Brett Tillander began as a club member when he was 15 and, before leaving, was running the tutoring program. He worked at a few organizations before returning to MDYC as CEO in 2001. His 27 full- and part-time staff members oversee locations in Southfield, Detroit and Royal Oak. The 1,578 members range from fifth grade and up. “I want kids when they’re teens,” said Brett. “Any earlier you haven’t gotten to the tough part of being a youth.” The club sees positive outcomes in graduation rates, mental health issues, contacts with law enforcement and teen pregnancies during this critical time.

The data tells a positive story.

During the pandemic, Brett’s team began digitizing their data and are now able to track numbers to tell the story of the club’s impact on members. One way they get their data is with pizza! They began collecting report cards from the club members by saying they couldn’t come to the pizza party without their report card. The team now has three marking periods of valuable data on grades, absences and citizenship. Using a pre-Covid attendance number from a nearby Detroit public school kindergarten found that of the 172 days of instruction the class averaged 78 absences. In comparison, for three post-Covid marking periods, school attendance for club members in Royal Oak and Southfield averaged two, and the Detroit club members, averaged five! Talk about better than average! It’s obvious the club is having a positive impact.

From September through May 2022, grades, absenteeism and citizenship scores were better for the kids who use the club more often. The gains have been remarkable across all three clubs. In August, MDYC partnered with the Michigan League on Public Policy in a study on chronic absenteeism; defined as missing 10% of the school days. In the public schools in Detroit, 68% are chronically absent, Southfield shows 51% and Royal Oak is 33%. The MDYC members show almost 50% less absenteeism than the Detroit Public Schools average!

Volunteer tutors are critical.

With all the success the MDYC is showing, they are still less than 50% of where they should be for tutors. After meeting the kids at Career Day, seeing their enthusiasm and learning about this highly motivated group of individuals, why not become part of the positivity? It can be as little as once a month or as much as daily involvement.

It’s simple—head to the MDYC website, fill out the volunteer application and after two hours of training, you can be part of the change in someone’s life. Not an academic? Doesn’t matter, you can help with sports, music…just about anything. The club will fine-tune the assignment to match your skills.

Sign up and do what you can. It all makes a difference.