The YMCA’s mission is youth development, social responsibility and healthy living. That takes many forms, from the familiar such as youth swim lessons and senior exercise to programs many people are not even aware the Y offers but that serve a need in their community. Here in Detroit, that means the Y’s mission includes opening charter schools to provide an alternative for families who are not served by the city’s traditional public schools. Two schools, Detroit Leadership Academy and Detroit Innovation Academy, serve kindergarten through eighth grade and, beginning this fall, Detroit Leadership Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a high school, will open its doors to its first class.

Enrollment is currently underway for the high school. It will welcome its first class of 125 ninth graders this fall and add a grade every year until this first class reaches 12th grade. The curriculum is based around the Covey Seven Habits for Highly Effective Teens. Class sizes will be small, between 20 and 25 students per class. Each student will have adult role models and and mentors. The school has established a relationship with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and adults within the school will form relationships with the students as well. Research has shown that if a teen has a relationship with at least one caring adult at school – and it could be anyone from the principal to the lunchroom aide – they are much more likely to succeed.

In addition to fostering academic success, the school’s core beliefs include developing a sense of what it means to be part of a community, and personal power, which means to develop a clear sense of self and one’s purpose and passion.

Entrepreneurship is a big part of the curriculum, as the school’s name indicates. Students will learn to write business plans as well as learn skills necessary to excel in the work world, either on their own or as employees. “The idea is to get them thinking as businesspersons,” says Anita Tucker, business office manager for the school. Plans are to offer international travel opportunities and innovative technology as well. Y programing will be a big part of their offerings; the Y I-CAN Achieve curriculum that blends work, service, positive decision making and physical activity will be available to all students.

The school is located near U-M Dearborn and Henry Ford Community College. Dual enrollment will be available at both schools, which could allow students to graduate with a year or two of college credit as well as a high school diploma.
The school is a charter school, which means it does not charge tuition. Enrollment will continue until the class is full. For more information about the Detroit Leadership Academies visit

Editor’s note: Amy Kuras is a journalist, blogger and Y member. She lives with her family in Detroit.

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