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2 nonprofits team up to focus on literacy for young student-athletes in Detroit

Posted at 11:37 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 23:37:30-04

DETROIT, Mich. (WXYZ) — We’re highlighting the efforts of two amazing nonprofits. One is called Beyond Basics which focuses on literacy and changing lives by teaching students to read and the other Sound Mind Sound Body which is transforming the lives of young student-athletes in the city of Detroit by teaching them that life goes far beyond the love of sport.

The two joined forces at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the result has been life-changing.

We first highlighted the remarkable transformation of students who learned to read with Beyond Basics a few years ago when high school senior Elijah Craft was about to go to college to play football. He could not read street signs in his own Detroit neighborhood until an intervention and talking about it brought him to tears.

The co-founder of Beyond Basics, Pamela Good, calls the reading crisis across the nation an epidemic where literacy is treated as a one size fits all problems and everyone gets the same intervention.

“If you’re more than a grade behind, it doesn't work for, and they get passed along and that has to change,” said Pamela Good.

Beyond Basics tutors work with students who cannot read or are reading below grade level one on one. Within six weeks most are reading and beyond.

“We take a child that's reading at a fifth-grade level and get them reading at a ninth-grade level in a matter of weeks,” Good added.

Last summer Beyond Basics teamed up with Sound Mind Sound Body, a program that teaches athletes about life, excelling in education and achieving success. Masai Reddick joined the program in 8th grade.

“What did they instill in you?” asked WXYZ’s Carolyn Clifford.

“Biggest thing they instilled in me is responsibility you have to take responsibility in everything you do ownership if you did something wrong to keeping track of your business,” said Masai Reddick.

But when the Covid pandemic hit, it prevented tutors from meeting with athletes in person, so they flipped to an online program.

“It enabled us to pilot that online work right away and we had phenomenal results,” Good said.

“They were doing literacy sessions on their phones you never know what you can do until you have to do it and that was the situation and it happened, and it worked,” said Sound Mind Sound Body Founder Curtis Blackwell II.

At 6'5 300 pounds plus, Masai who will be a senior at Cass Tech already has 25 scholarship offers to play college football. He was one of the 50 Sound Mind Sound Body student athletes who took part in the pilot program with Beyond Basics.

“I think the biggest thing was is that we actually got to talk to our tutors and get to know our tutors as people,” said Reddick. Eighty-five percent of the students in Detroit are reading below grade level. For Reddick, the tutoring is preparing him for college.

“How to improve my reading ability, but also my thinking ability, my problem solving enhanced in me,” Reddick said.

The partnership so successful this summer there will be 100 student-athletes in the tutoring program.

“It's important, in a community like Detroit where resources are limited that you have collaboration where Beyond Basics, Sound Mind Sound Body, Detroit Public Schools Community District work together for the benefit of the young people,” said Blackwell.

“We've touched the lives of 90,000 kids,” said Good. “Literacy is a vaccine for almost every social ill. We need to come together and focus on this for the crisis it is,” Good said.

“If you would have told 12 years (to) 15 years ago when we started Sound Mind Sound Body kids would improve their literacy I would have been blown away,” Blackwell said.

Beyond Basics is now in 12 Detroit Community schools plus the suburbs and some catholic schools and thanks to more funding their reach will go even further. Over their 20 plus years they've raised more than $25 million for literacy intervention and have touched the lives of nearly 100,000 kids.