Monthly Archives: April 2018

We met Mr. Preston when we were considering the move to our newest Brilliant Detroit home in the Mohican-Regent neighborhood of Osborn. He heads up the neighborhood group leading change in his area and we connected immediately thanks to the recommendation of Quincy Jones and Kayana Sessoms of Osborn Neighborhood Alliance. He fully checked us out to make sure this was a fit for the neighborhood and, once satisfied by the work being done with Brilliant Detroit, and with a growing sense of possibilities, he worked tirelessly to organize his neighbors and pick out a perfectly located home.

He truly gives a new definition of what community leadership looks like. Not only is Mr. Preston extremely approachable, kind and supportive, but he is a strong advocate for creating safe spaces for children and families in his neighborhood. He is simply an inspiring individual and an absolute pleasure to work with, and because of him, Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, Mohican Regent Neighborhood Association and Clarkston Capital, we are opening for business at 13800 Eastburn.

When great people come together in community, great things happen. Look for our Osborn open house announcement coming soon.

When our Central house opened in 2016, a participant tearfully explained how moving it was for her to see this corner house transform from blighted vacancy to a vibrant and populated space. The transformations are not going to end any time soon, for that hope bred an ongoing vision and dedication to what this space can become. As our Central advisory began to come together, there was more and more talk about building out a beautiful playground and recreation space on the adjacent open lot. This talk gradually expanded into further renovations on the house itself to make it even more kid friendly. This took us to the next phase of the plan: partner with design-centered organizations to renovate the Central home and the adjacent lot into a flagship model that is designed around what homes should be for kids. The IFF and the Design Center at the University of Detroit Mercy were in place as partners to assist with this model, which could be utilized by home-based providers and parents throughout Detroit as part of a city-wide movement for kid success. Everyone was excited, but there was one problem: where would the money come from? Enter Quicken Loans in the Community.


Driven by stated commitments to, among other things, stabilize neighborhoods, develop transformational sites and improve education for all, Quicken approached the Brilliant Detroit team about supporting our work. This came at a perfect time and, once presented with the proposal to renovate the Central house, Quicken agreed to support the project. Their generous donation of $50,000 puts us well on the path to turning our neighbors’ dream into a reality. This donation, as well as the computers, books, bikes, food, and additional funds that Quicken has graciously offered us over the course of this partnership, have added so much to Brilliant Detroit. They are showing us what neighbors helping neighbors across zip codes can accomplish.


The Brilliant Detroit Kid Success Design Center is part of our distribution model of programming at the neighborhood level and increasing education for all. The house – designed to be replicable for other home providers – will have expanded capability for indoor and outdoor programming that meets diverse learning needs. Because we are planning to expand to four more sites this year, the house that we design at Central can be replicated at more Brilliant Detroit houses in new neighborhoods and impact countless lives. Many thanks to the Central Advisory and Quicken Loans in the Community for creating and supporting this beautiful idea.

There are times in our lives when we discover a place that changes everything. For Safiya Jackson, better known as Blonde and Blue Girl or simply Blue, that place was Brilliant Detroit. Blue is “a mom of two who’s always looking for something to do with [her] children that isn’t super expensive and yet still helps improve their lives,” and one day she found the Brilliant Detroit Cody Rouge house. “It provided a home away from home, a place for [her] kids and self to grow AND a place for [her] sense of purpose.”

The more time she and her family enjoyed at Cody Rouge, the more she wanted to connect with the people in that space; both staff and participants alike. She started to volunteer whenever she could and, soon after, she founded the Cody Rouge Movie Nights, which gave children a chance to watch movies with their peers and parents free of charge. Never ceasing to innovate, Blue’s path took her further and further from there. Blue says, “I felt appreciated and loved and wanted to give this to others as a way to build community. I felt I found my calling and when I heard I could fully give my time to Brilliant Detroit with Public Allies, I submitted my resignation from [my] job and joined the team.” Sometimes things just feel right and, for Blue, that was the community at Brilliant Detroit and the possibility of building a kid success neighborhood. Feeling that a greater purpose was before her, Blue took a pay cut by leaving her job to devote herself to this work.

To leave the story there would be enough, but that would omit the energy and enthusiasm that she has brought since joining the Public Allies team. She is one of six inspiring new additions to the Brilliant Detroit team from the Public Allies program, brought on board to further build out our outreach and engagement work. Not only is Blue deeply engaged in the outreach work, she also finds plenty of time to continue working at her home away from home: the Cody Rouge house. She has proved to be an invaluable source of support for our Cody Rouge staff, even covering for them during their time off. She has pioneered the Cody Rouge Literacy Nights with Brilliant Detroit’s volunteer team, bringing ideas, energy, and her wonderful children to each event, and engaging her neighbors in literacy-rich games and activities.

“Today I am helping build kid success neighborhoods through talking with people and helping them find what works for their families. A pretty big order. Most importantly, I feel I have found my mission and am inspired by those around me.” Stop by sometime to meet Safiya as she continues on her path forward. As the name suggests, she’s the one with the blonde and blue hair!

Today 14 percent of our 3rd graders in Detroit are reading at grade level. We all know that this is unacceptable and that we must work together to make this a reality of the past.

At Brilliant Detroit we are so glad to be partnered with United Way of Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM) on a city-wide Grade Level Reading campaign. This will help advance the work started with Excellent Schools to collaboratively solve this issue.  At the same time we are partnering in our locations with dozens of organizations to assure that every kid and family get what they need in order to be reading by 3rd grade.

We call this a belly to 8 effort because interventions that matter start in the womb. Some of what happens at our sites are:

Make Your Date – A program formed by Detroit civic leaders and medical experts with the Wayne State University School of Medicine to ensure that every pregnant woman in Detroit has the best chance of having a healthy, full-term pregnancy. Brilliant Detroit has partnered with this program to offer pre-term birth education classes to expectant mothers in neighborhoods. To date, three cohorts have completed the program with many more to come.

Lena Start – A national program that we are piloting in Detroit to address the 30 million word gap of words heard by age 4 between low- and middle-income families. Babies sit on the laps of their guardians and are given vests with recording devices that measure words. The guardians are then engaged in a workshop that leads them through conversational turn-taking and other communication strategies with their child.

Munger Leads When Munger Reads – A coalition of organizations coming together with Munger Elementary-Middle School and Detroit Public Schools Community District to pilot community-based intervention programs designed to increase grade level reading at Munger. Brilliant Detroit acts as a neutral facilitator in this process.

Raising a Reader – Another national program that we are piloting in Detroit as part of the Munger Leads When Munger Reads campaign in order to build family literacy habits. Families in cohorts receive red bags each week with age-appropriate books, which their children take the lead in reading. Every week, this bag gets swapped for a bag with different books after the parents receive training from a workshop on how best to engage their kids with reading in a meaningful and relevant way. At the end of each cohort, there is a celebration that connects participating families with their local libraries in order to continue to encourage family literacy habits.

Family Reading Journey – Partners volunteers with families to build literacy and reading habits among children and their guardians.

Pathways to Literacy –  A 13-week program with the Detroit Parent Network that works with families on encouraging their children to develop an interest in literacy at an early age. Each week focuses on a book and on preparing activities for that book, as well as encouraging parents to start to build a library at home.

Play and Learns – Brilliant Detroit engages children and their guardians in regular Play and Learn activities designed to increase family bonds and the age-appropriate play skills of guardians.

ABC Mouse – An award-winning online education program that we are bringing both to our sites and to numerous laundromats that partner with us and Libraries Without Borders for the Wash & Learn Literacy Program. Wash & Learns engage children and families in literacy-rich activities while they wait for their clothes to be cleaned at local laundromats. Children will be able to access the activities in ABC Mouse, as well as the programs that track individual growth and learning.

We ask ourselves: what if a family starts their work before their baby is born and then, throughout their child’s first 8 years, works at each of the touchpoints of nurturing and growing that happen in their home and with their child.

Join us if you have similar dreams and are likewise committed to making these excellent programs available to children and adults throughout Detroit. Southwest Neighborhood Engagement Manager, Esmeralda Torres, says that she has “been impacted and am so happy to be able to continue to spread the wonders and amazement that will make us happier and healthier adults, children and communities. The enthusiasm Brilliant Detroit has put forth is contagious..Let’s keep spreading this.”