Reading intervention program used by Detroit schools gets $1M donation

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

A reading intervention program in some Detroit schools and one community center is getting a $1 million donation from a Macomb County-based foundation that will allow it to grow its services this year.

Beyond Basics announced the gift this week from the Wayne and Joan Webber Foundation, which has donated a total of $6 million to support the nonprofit's literacy efforts since 2006.

The $1 million gift will expand the program, which offers intensive, one-on-one literacy tutoring that has a 90% success rate in bringing students to grade-level reading skills in an average of six weeks. 

Pamela Good, left, co-founder and CEO of Beyond Basics, shares a moment with Cynthia Webber Helisek, president of the Wayne and Joan Webber Foundation, as they announced a $1 million gift to Beyond Basics Legacy Program in Detroit on Wednesday, February 16, 2021.

Beyond Basics is in nine high schools and four elementary schools in Detroit. They also provide services at the Family Literacy Center at Durfee Innovation Society in Detroit.

Pamela Good, cofounder and CEO of Beyond Basics, said the partnership allows students who require additional support in reading the critical opportunity to improve foundational literacy skills while also learning about the life of Wayne Webber, the former owner of highway construction company W.W. Webber Inc.

"The generous gift helps us to serve more students in southeast Michigan, including the hiring of many more tutors,” Good said. “While other students have unfortunately fallen behind due to COVID-19 school disruptions, our students can get the resources they need and make gains in reading.”

Pamela Good, co-founder and CEO of Beyond Basics, announces a $1 million gift from the Wayne and Joan Webber Foundation to the Beyond Basics Legacy Program in Detroit on Wednesday, February 16, 2021.

The Webber Foundation, based in Clinton Township, seeks to provide access to quality health care, improve K-12 inner-city education, and nourishment, clothing, and shelter for the less fortunate.

Cynthia Webber Helisek, president of the foundation, said her aunt and uncle understood the critical role of literacy in a young person’s life.

"Wayne always said Beyond Basics would be a beacon of light that would flicker across this nation, waking people to the crisis of illiteracy and the importance of dedicated one-on-one tutoring," Helisek, said. "The ability to read and comprehend the written word should be the foundation of education in every community."

Good says the program's model is unique in literacy interventions, administering a diagnostic assessment and implementing an individualized reading plan five days per week, an hour per day, with trained tutors who develop relationships with students.

Once literate, students can achieve their educational goals, and become adults who thrive personally and professionally, Good said.

“Wayne and Joan played a pivotal role in the development of our multisensory tutoring program,” Good said. “They were among Beyond Basics’ earliest supporters, and they have continued to step forward to facilitate our growth whenever a need arises. We are indebted to their generosity, and so thankful to have received their encouragement throughout the years.”

The program is looking to hire between 100-150 paid tutors now through the end of the year. Apply at Tutors need to be available to work Monday through Friday during school hours and can work up to 30 hours per week.

In October, the  A. A. Van Elslander Foundation gave a $1.5 million donation to Detroit's Denby High School to fund Beyond Basics literacy efforts there.