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Dear YIP Dream Makers and Friends,

        We changed Detroit and impacted 100 “at-risk” boys from 20 different middle schools in Detroit with a world-class championship experience over two weeks in one of our nation’s top academic universities. We joined together as one team – from the community for the community – a singular team made up of 100 at-risk boys attending title one public school, four public school teachers from Detroit Public Schools, six U.S. Marines, nine the University of Michigan Staff and 26 the University of Michigan student-athletes that make up the entire sophomore class of the 2015 Michigan Football Team.

team running happily towards center of ground

     Our academic results are a remarkable achievement of success. The English data show an average growth of 100.5% indicating that many of our students more than doubled their scores. In analyzing the raw scores it shows a 72% increase. We are extremely proud as it reflects an incredible increase in vocabulary for these young men. The YIP teachers are so proud of these statistics. It was not only a great accomplishment for these young men to read a book in its entirety while increasing their vocabulary and belief in themselves that they can actually read a book from cover to cover. Every class finished the book together.

5 students studying in library

     The math scores reflected the fun, innovative ways to help students memorize multiplication facts. The student’s scores increased by 18%, reflecting an average growth of 29%. These increases are significant and reflect our teachers’ innovation and fun in their approach to teaching multiplication tables, a standard necessary requirement of all middle school-aged children.

coach teaching some values to student

     What we did together at Michigan was much more than hone academics. It was leadership development for everyone involved. Our character development, respect for ourselves and others came from the leadership of our Marines. Our U.S. Marines were in each of the classrooms and with their specific classroom teams on and off the field exerting discipline, commitment, and tough love. This carried over to our Michigan Student-Athletes that too moved to develop their leadership development skills. In fact, the program helped the Marines with their own skill sets of developing leadership within the civilian population.

     One of our classroom teams was so motivated to finish their studies early, as to march in formation with their own squad leaders around the other classes. Most of the boys hated the Marines by the end of the first day, but over time learned to respect and love them and the structure they provided. It was a heartwarming transformation.  Having a disciplined structure with consequences is critical for making a lasting impact on our boys. An alarming statistic indicates students in the Detroit Public Schools will be absent an average of 42 out of 191 school days per year. Absenteeism and tardiness every day at school is a tremendous problem and stems directly from a lack of meaningful consequences.

students raising hand for doubt

     Having a U.S. Marine in each classroom along with our Student-Athletes allowed for a managed classroom, making for an environment that is drastically different from their public schools. Our managed classrooms were where the teacher didn’t have to enforce discipline control distractions and can entirely focus on educating. This is the ideal environment that has enabled great gains in skills and knowledge that we see in our program.

     It is an outlandish fact that many of our Detroit Public Schools students must walk through metal detectors and be physically searched before they are allowed to enter their schools. A fear for bullying and even for life is common as is disrespect in language and actions towards the teachers. Our Michigan YIP Program structure changes the classroom dynamics so that the boys are receptive and engaged with the curriculum being taught. At the helm of these classrooms were our four hand-selected, best of the best Detroit Public School Teachers. They were passionate, engaging, loving, and taught from the heart. We felt it was extremely important that these teachers came from the same middle schools that the boys attend.

boy standing with coach michigan wolverines

     The fundamental catalysts for success were the 26 Michigan Football Student-Athletes.  Many came from the same background as the boys. They were tremendous in their outreach, their passion, their developing skill sets on leadership. The boys reflected on them, looked up to them, and had them as their heroes that provided true friendships. The players represented the core values and character of the University of Michigan. Intern the players developed their leadership and bonded together with their boys to create a special two weeks of care and love. Five players in particular: Maurice Ways, Jabrill Peppers, Brady Pallante, Freddy Canteen, and Noah Furbush stood out in their own development and leadership of this program which directly correlated with its success and outcomes.

      We are all captivated that this University has one of the most historic legacies and traditions of college football in America.  It has one of the premier College Football Coaches in the nation from the Harbaugh family of great coaches. The University of Michigan Football program was all in with us every day to support and provide an experience that will never be forgotten by any one of our “at-risk” boys.

Students and adults sitting on a football ground

     All of our boys had their own locker with their last name and number with a laundry bag of the Michigan YIP uniform clothing. This locker room was the Michigan Football’s game day locker room in the Big House. All the classes and all the practices were in the Big House. There was nothing more special than for each of them to run through the tunnel on the last day with the Michigan Marching Band playing the fight song “Hail to the Victors,” while being cheered by the players, marines, teachers, and their families as they jumped to touch the banner and line up on the field. We introduced each one by their name and number, with their headshot on the two giant video game day screens at the Big House.

It is now an impression deeply embedded in each of them what this University, these men and women from this University did to make a change and impact their lives forever.

Hail to the Victors:

Wesley Ellison- Program Director

Shari Acho- Curriculum Director

Jim Harbaugh- Head Football Coach University of Michigan

Jim Minick- Associate AD for Football

Rick Finotti – Football Director

Erick Campbell – Football Director

As Jim Harbaugh said to our YIP team:

“Who has got it better than us? NOBODY!”

team on ground



Riki Ellison

Chairman and Founder

Youth Impact Program

Permanently Impacting Our Nation’s At-Risk, Inner-City Youth