Detroit Achievement Academy (DAA) is a free, public charter school located in the poorest zip code of Michigan and with the highest performing kids in Detroit. DAA opened in 2013 and the school currently serves kindergarten through fourth grade students and will continue expanding each year. DAA promotes a holistic learning approach that includes exploration, diversity and inclusion, and the arts. Within two years of opening, DAA students were performing in the 99th percentile on national exams.
Ray of Lights Support: ROL initially supported DAA by enhancing the students’ classroom learning experience with new music equipment and art supplies. Since then ROL has continued to support DAA including donating towards the school’s purchase of a new facility. In 2017, Ray of Light also donated funding for a new building for the organization’s second school in Detroit, Detroit Prep Academy.
The Empowerment Plan
The Empowerment Plan (EP) employs formerly homeless women and provides them with training and full-time employment as seamstresses so that they can earn a stable income, secure housing, and regain independence.
The women EP hires manufacture a coat designed to meet the needs of those in the homeless community. The coat transforms into a sleeping bag or an over-the-shoulder bag as needed. Since 2012, EP has employed 45 homeless individuals—all of whom have now secured permanent housing for themselves and their families —and distributed over 25,000 coats to those in need across the world, at no cost to them.
Through training and steady employment, the women working at EP elevate themselves from the cycle of poverty while providing for the homeless community.
Ray of Light’s Support: Madonna and ROL first supported EP with a contribution to hire three women as seamstresses, taking them out of homeless shelters and giving them the opportunity to work. The three women have since graduated from EP’s training program, obtained full-time jobs at local Detroit businesses and are living independently in new apartments with their children. ROL has continued its partnership with EP by supporting its initiatives to:
- Relocate to a larger facility
- Launch a retail arm to generate revenue and become self-sustaining
In November 2017, with support from ROL, EP purchased its new Detroit building (which will double the number of staff EP can take on and train at one time) and launched its retail line of coats, Maxwell Detroit, which will help it employ more women and become sustainable.
Downtown Youth Boxing Gym
The Downtown Youth Boxing Gym (DYBG) provides free after-school boxing and educational mentoring to kids in Detroit’s Eastside community. Graduation rates in this community average between 17-32%, but 100% of DYBG students have graduated high school. There are currently 130 kids enrolled in the program who are served by 25 coaches. Since they gym opened in 2007, 267 kids have completed the program; all of these kids have graduated high school and 98% have gone on to college. DYBG was founded by Coach Khali Sweeney, whose credo is “books before boxing.” The gym is equipped with a full tutoring center where kids receive additional assistance with homework and participate in extracurricular learning opportunities. There are 850 students on the waiting list. In 2017, Coach Khali was named a top-ten finalist for CNN’s Hero of the Year. The show honors "everyday people helping to change the world.
Ray of Light’s Support: ROL donated to help DBGYP purchase, renovate and maintain a new building for its growing program. ROL’s contribution allowed DBYG to remove additional kids from its waitlist and expand its impact.