The hundreds of Detroit youth who are part of Soar Detroit are going to summer camp, playing team sports, and improving their reading with the help of volunteer tutors.
Formerly Eagle Sports Club, the nonprofit founded by Doug Kempton organizes tutoring sessions for mentors and kids. With scientifically informed curriculum, the program helps struggling students reach – and pass – their grade level of reading.
“It’s delivered one-on-one, every child has a mentor, spends time with them,” Kempton says. “I always says just that time of encouraging a young person that they have what it takes makes a huge difference.”
Soar Detroit is one of the youth-focused nonprofits benefiting from Kyle’s Challenge. Kempton says the support his organization receives from the fundraising effort is crucial.
“It helps us to get the word out. It helps us to let people know that we need mentors, and that we need financial partners. We need organizations to come alongside of us,” Kempton says. “The exposure is huge if we’re actually going to reach the goals that we think we’re supposed to.”
WDET’s Sandra Svoboda spoke with Kempton. Click on the audio link above to hear their full conversation. A full transcript appears below.
The Kyle John Rymiszewski Foundation was founded in loving memory of Kyle John Rymiszewski by WDET donors Gary Cone and Aimee Cowher, Kyle’s mom. Kyle suffered a heart attack that ended his life on December 3, 2009, when he was just short of his 16th birthday. Kyle suffered from a heart condition called hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy which causes the heart muscle to thicken, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood. The Kyle John Foundation celebrates Kyle’s life and makes a difference for children afflicted with cardiomyopathy.
December 11 marks Kyle’s birthday. Although it’s a hard day for those who knew and loved him, the foundation celebrates the joy that was Kyle’s life through Kyle’s Challenge on WDET. Gary and Aimee created this community impact campaign with WDET in 2012, and it continues to be the largest challenge in the station’s history.
On this day, Aimee and Gary are challenging WDET listeners to get involved in supporting your public radio station by matching their generous support – a $25,000 gift to WDET - as part of the challenge. When we reach our goal of $25,000 by midnight on December 11, WDET will donate back $25,000 in promotional airtime to five local youth-focused non-profits nominated by donors.
Thanks to The Kyle John Foundation and the hundreds of listeners who have participated each year, Kyle’s Challenge has significantly improved WDET’s ability to serve our community while also supporting local youth-focused organizations that are making a difference in the lives of metro Detroit kids.
Here’s Sandra’s conversation with Doug Kempton, founder of Soar Detroit:
SS: What are the negative long-term consequences for children who are not reading at grade level when they are in grade school?
DK: So if you just for fun googled, or did a search of “third-grade reading statistics,” you’d be shocked at all the things: a child is seven times more likely to be in prison or on public assistance, five times more likely to drop out of school. And the thing we’ve learned is that if a child can’t read by the time they’re in third grade, they very seldom catch up because up until third grade they learn to read, and past third grade, they read to learn. Imagine the consequence. If you don’t get it by the time you’re in third grade, now reading is what we use to do our math problems, and what we use to study social studies, or whatever the subject is, English. There’s just all kinds of data out there that shows us if we can get to the kids before third grade, they tend to excel, they tend to do better, they grow in a love for learning. It makes them better math students, it makes them better science students. It really has a huge impact.
SS: What does Soar Detroit need as an organization to do more and even better work?
DK: The two hurdles for us: one is finances. It’s expense to do one-on-one mentoring. So programs like this, like Kyle’s Challenge make a huge difference for us financially. But we also need mentors. We need people who will give one hour a week to change the trajectory of a kid’s life. We have seven different centers throughout the city of Detroit, all on major thoroughfares. So it’s very easy to find a place where you can serve. They’re all after school so a lot of people on their commute, coming home from work or if they work second shift, going to work, can stop, give an hour and make a huge difference. If we’re going to serve the numbers that we feel like we can serve, we’re going to have to raise up an army of literally thousands of mentors. We do all the training. We get people set. I always tell people: My daughter mentored when she was 12 years old. She mentored a first grader and the first grader went up three grade levels. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientists. My daughter is brilliant but she was 12. We do the training and get people equipped for what they need. But mentors and partners financially are the two big hurdles.
SS: Through Kyle’s Challenge here at WDET, your organization, Soar Detroit, is getting some exposure to audience and engagement. What does that mean to your organization?
DK: It’s huge. There is no way that we can do this without the cooperation really citywide. So when we have program like Kyle’s Challenge and specifically Kyle’s Challenge, it helps us to get the word out. It helps us to let people know that we need mentors, and that we need financial partners. We need organizations to come alongside of us. We’re delivering this program in lots of difference churches, we’re delivering this program in some of the bigger nonprofits in this city. But we need that partnership. The exposure is huge if we’re actually going to reach the goals that we think we’re supposed to.