$1.5M gift from foundation to fund literacy push at Detroit's Denby High

Noelle Gray
The Detroit News

Detroit — A $1.5 million donation to Detroit's Denby High School will fund literacy efforts at the school.

The donation from the A. A. Van Elslander Foundation for the Beyond Basics literacy program will fund intensive literacy tutoring for any student who needs it over the next two years at Denby High.

During a press conference Tuesday morning at Denby High School, David Van Elslander, son of the late Art Van Elslander who started the retail chain of stores Art Van Furniture, spoke on the impact of literacy for students.

"Beyond Basics offers the same opportunity giving students the chance to change and control their future through literacy," Van Elslander said. "We're so proud to support Beyond Basics as they work to give students the skills they need to succeed, and we encourage other community leaders to join us."

Others in attendance at the press conference included Detroit Public School Community District Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti, cofounder/CEO of Beyond Basics Pamela Good and Denby High School Principal Tanisha Manningham.

Two students who attend Denby, senior Unique Johnson and junior Xavier Thomas, spoke about their participation in the Beyond Basics Legacy Program.

"I feel it is a great opportunity and helps for a lifetime," Johnson said. "My tutor gave me different goals during the week, it helped a lot. It helped me to push faster and gave me the power to accomplish everything I did."

Founded in 2002, Beyond Basics is a nonprofit organization working to eradicate illiteracy. It offers and extensive tutoring program to help students reach grade-level proficiency.

The AA Van Elslander Foundation concentrates its charitable giving to Michigan programs that focus on children, health and human services, according to its website.