Mumford High School

This Detroit school has seen some tough times, but its students mean business: ‘I’ve got to set an example.’

PHOTO: Colin Maloney
Dylan Heard: "My father — he didn't graduate high school...(but) he believes I can be better."

Dylan Heard knows that he’s being watched — and that what he does matters.

“I’ve got to set an example because I’ve got little cousins and I’ve got a niece and they’re looking up to me,” said Heard, a junior at Detroit’s Mumford Academy.

Mumford students have not had an easy time of it. The school has seen years of turmoil. It was seized by the state in 2012 and placed in a state-run recovery district. It was returned to the main Detroit district in July after the recovery district dissolved. This year, it was threatened with closure by the state, then spared — at least for a while — by a deal the state cut with districts.

Just before school started this year, Chalkbeat spoke with five Mumford Academy students about their plans for the coming year and the things that are inspiring them to succeed.

Heard said his draws motivation from his father.

“He didn’t graduate high school,” Heard said. “(But) he believes I can be better. He always pushes me.”

If you have a story to tell about education in Detroit  — or know someone who does — please let us know. Chalkbeat has been featuring the stories of students, teachers, parents and others in our recurring Story Booth series.

Watch the video to see the full story from these Mumford Academy students here:

Detroit Story Booth

Why one woman thinks special education reform can’t happen in isolation

PHOTO: Colin Maloney
Sharon Kelso, student advocate from Detroit

When Sharon Kelso’s kids and grandkids were still in school, they’d come home and hear the same question from her almost every day: “How was your day in school?” One day, a little over a decade ago, Kelso’s grandson gave a troubling answer. He felt violated when security guards at his school conducted a mass search of students’ personal belongings.

Kelso, a Cass Tech grad, felt compelled to act. Eventually, she became the plaintiff in two cases which outlawed unreasonable mass searches of students in Detroit’s main district.

Fast forward to August, when her three great-nephews lost both their mother and father in the space of a week and Kelso became their guardian. Today, she asks them the same question she has asked two generations of Detroit students: “How was your day in school?”

The answers she receives still deeply inform her advocacy work.

Watch the full video here:

– Colin Maloney

Detroit Story Booth

This Detroit educator used a sense of community and mentorship to help a student through a personal tragedy

Patrice Wright is committed to being an advocate for her students, she said.

The Michigan State University graduate is a youth worker with Playworks Michigan, an organization that puts AmeriCorps members in schools to teach social skills through physical activities and games.

In her first year working in Detroit schools, Wright said she drew on her own experience at Renaissance High School to help her students.

“Some of the best teachers that I learned how to be a teacher from and how to be a youth worker from are in DPS,” she said. “The hearts of the teachers never change.”

When one of Wright’s students witnessed the violent murder of an immediate family member, the child returned to school the next day, she said.

The student “knew there was somebody there who cared about her, school was that safe space she knew she could come to.”

Wright told her Detroit school story as part of Chalkbeat’s Story Booth series, which began last spring with our storytelling launch event at the Charles H. Wright Museum. If you know someone with a Detroit schools story to tell — a teacher, student parent or anyone else — please let us know.

Watch Patrice’s full story below: