Community center to open in east side Detroit academy

Shawn D. Lewis The Detroit News

Detroit — An east side Detroit learning academy is the first in the city to house a new center that provides community services inside the school building.

The Ford Motor Co. Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Dearborn automaker, along with the Detroit Public Schools Community District and the Detroit Public Schools Foundation announced Monday the Ford Resource and Engagement Center that will provide services for neighborhood residents and students.

“This is an investment in the students, and you’ve made a new friend at Ford Motor Co.,” Ford Motor Co. Fund President Jim Vella said directly to Fisher Magnet Upper Academy students seated in the front row.

Vella said the community center will bring $5 million in services to the city’s east side. That’ll include food distribution to meet basic needs, job training and continuing education and arts and cultural services. The center in a wing of the school also will be open Saturdays to provide field trips for students and their parents.

“This could be a real game changer for this community,” Vella said.

District Emergency Manager Judge Steven Rhodes said the effort corresponds with the district’s return to community control. In that vein, the new school board will be elected in November and take office in January 2017.

“This is a community undertaking and it is the responsibility of the community,” Rhodes said. “This is a tremendous benefit to continue excellence in education.”

Eighth-grade student Jordan Allison, 13, said she was excited about the new center. She was among the students who offered input about improvements they would like to see in and around their school. On the walls in the resource center, were posters with hand-drawn pictures and words students helped create.

“I’d like to see a garden on the school property and more lighting around the school,” she said. “It’s just a good feeling to know people really care about us and who love us because Detroit doesn’t get a lot of love.”

Fisher Magnet Upper Academy Principal Harry Coakley said the center is a “positive addition.”

“Lots of times, parents only come to school when something is wrong,” he said.

Detroit schools Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather thanked everyone for “investing in Detroit kids.”

“I live in southwest Detroit and the (similar) site there is an asset to those in that neighborhood,” she said. “I know this will be an investment on the east side,” she said.

The east side center is modeled after the original one that opened in southwest Detroit three years ago.

Located in the Mexicantown Mercado, Ford says the first Ford Resource and Engagement Center has helped more than 80,000 local residents through services such as providing 1.2 million pounds of food to helping complete more than 6,000 tax returns. The original center has returned $3 in services to the local community for every $1 invested by Ford and the nonprofits that provide the services, supporters say.

The new Ford Resource and Engagement Center will be managed by the Detroit Public Schools Foundation and is expected to open early next year.

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