dBusiness: Beyond Basics, Downtown Boxing Gym Partner to Boost Student Literacy

By R.J. King, dBusiness
February 22, 2016

Southfield-based Beyond Basics, which operates a certified nonprofit literacy program in Detroit Public Schools, and the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program in Detroit, are working together to boost reading, writing, and word comprehension skills for students as part of an after school tutoring program.

Photo Courtesy of the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program

Founded in 2007, the nonprofit Downtown Boxing Gym, located on Detroit’s east side, today works with more than 100 students. Once the students, aged 7 to 18, finish their homework, they are taught discipline via boxing as well as the benefits of providing voluntary community service.

“We did an initial assessment (late last year) of our middle and high school students, and we found 20 percent were reading at their grade level,” says Sarah Sorenson, academic coordinator at the Downtown Boxing Gym. “To address that, we partnered with Beyond Basics and set up their Read to Rise program here (last week). There are three tutors working with six students, and our goal is to providing tutoring for all of the students.”

The reading program, where students work with a certified tutor one on one for an hour each school day, has a more than 90 percent success rate. In many cases, students are reading at their grade level, or a higher grade, within six weeks.

“We’re thrilled to be working with the Downtown Boxing Gym, which is a new initiative for us to work outside of the five schools we work with in Detroit, and one in Pontiac,” says Pam Good, executive director of Beyond Basics. “If students can’t read, we are setting them up for failure because it will be difficult for them to learn math, the sciences, or other learning disciplines.”

Sorenson says once the students (elementary students will be assessed in the coming weeks) have mastered reading and writing, they will receive additional training in math and the sciences. “Our goal is to help our students become productive members of society and give back to the communities in which they live and work,” she says.

Founded in 2002, Beyond Basics provides reading, tutoring, and literacy support programs — writing, art, mentoring, and partnerships — for students in grades Pre-K through the 12th grade during the school day.

The cost of Beyond Basics literacy program ranges from $365 for a student that is close to reading at their grade level (4 weeks of training), to $2,000 or more for a student who is several years behind in reading and writing (14 weeks). Good says around 10 percent of students in Detroit public schools are reading at their grade level.

Currently, Beyond Basics serves students in the following schools in Detroit — Burton International Academy, Central Collegiate Academy, Sampson Webber Leadership Academy, Thirkell Elementary School, and University Yes Academy — as well as Whitmer Human Resources Center in Pontiac (along with the Pontiac Dream Center).

In recent weeks, Beyond Basics has added two board members, Jack Aronson, president of Clean Planet Proteins and Great Fresh Foods, both in Clinton Township, and Emily Ford, a former schoolteacher.

On March 18, Beyond Basics will host its annual fundraiser dinner, called Come Together For Children, at the Detroit Golf Club. The evening will include a silent and a live auction, a sit-down dinner, and live entertainment. To purchase tickets or to learn more about Beyond Basics, visit beyondbasics.org/events/.