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Beyond Basics literacy program gets big financial boost in the name of Detroit legacy Art Van

Schools education file photo
Posted at 10:26 PM, Dec 16, 2021

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The AA Van Elslander Foundation gave a huge donation to the Beyond Basic literacy program at Denby High School.

The late Art Van Elslander graduated from Denby high in 1948 and his family wanted his legacy to live on through this wonderful program.

“My biggest challenge was school I really, really hated school,” Quandallis Perry Fisher said.

That's how Perry Fisher felt about being in the classroom for most of his life.

“Did you struggle with reading at all? WXYZ’s Carolyn Clifford asked.

“Yes, I did, yeah,” Perry Fisher said.

That all changed when his counselor at Denby High School introduced him to the Beyond Basics literacy program, which teaches students to read or improve their reading comprehension within just six weeks, thanks to one-on-one tutoring.

“When that happened, I started reading very fast, I just started reading faster and they tell me to slow down — like I'm the fastest reader in the classroom now,” Perry Fisher said.

Perry Fisher now has a 3.6 grade point average.

We've done many stories on this amazing program over the years, showcasing a young man who learned to read his senior year in high school. Also, the football players in the Sound Mind Sound Body got virtual tutoring this summer with Beyond Basics and help was needed.

“It's really hard to believe that 85% of the kids attending school in Detroit right now and other cities like it are not able to read well enough to access education and so, he wanted to learn more,” Pamela Good said.

Good is the co-founder and CEO of Beyond Basics.

WXYZ was at the press conference in October when the AA Van Elslander Foundation donated $1.5 million to fund the Beyond Basic program at Denby for 500 students. Art Van's son David Elslander announced it.

As a child growing up in Detroit, Taylor Rice struggled in the classroom.

“I didn't realize I needed help with my reading,” Rice said.

Beyond Basics changed her life and others in her class.

“We all were struggling in different things, specifically with each one of us. So what we would do when we graduate from the program, we would write stories together during lunch,” Rice said.

Taylor went on to graduate from college and returned to become a Beyond Basics tutor and now is the program manager at Denby.

“It sparked the light inside of me and it sparked this yearning for reading it, sparked me wanting to give back to my community,” Rice said.

For students like Perry Fisher, it's hard to believe members of Art Van's family would care enough to give to their dad's alma mater and kids like him who are benefiting in such a life-changing way.

“The students who learn to read are going to learn about Art's life and his impact on the community,” Good said.

There are 43,000 students in Detroit alone who need the tutoring offered by Beyond Basics.

“They understand the magnitude and they've made this big gift, but they're hoping others will join because Denby is one high school, and we have many high schools,” Good said.

“How do you think your future will be now that Beyond Basics has touched your life?” Clifford asked.

“My future is most definitely going to be perfect,” Perry Fisher said.

The Beyond Basics literacy program is not only in Detroit but in suburbs and private schools too, trying to wipe out illiteracy in Michigan one student at a time.