About Association for Youth Empowerment

Posts by Association for Youth Empowerment:

2023 Golf Academy: AYE Partnership with Building Better Men

Posted by Charles C Primas Sr (Board member of AYE)

The Detroit Boyz Rock was glad to once again partner with Odis Bellinger and Building Better Men in having a Golf Academy for our young men in 2023.

This is the third year of this partnership, and it was a resounding success. With us finally not being restricted by COVID, this was the best one ever and we look forward to continuing this in the years to come!

This year’s program had 17 kids sign up and participate and all of them have golf clubs and/or sets to take home with them and practice.

They came to us with all different levels of experience, and they all learned a lot more about the game than when they started.

So, look for them at a golf course near you.

Our lead instructor was Larry “ShotMaker” Clemons, a Detroit Legend who has taught many in our area, including Kirk Gibson! (And he also donated about 10 sets of clubs for the kids!

What really make this program rock was the volunteers. They made it so that the kids had individual attention and could really learn the game.

In addition to myself, the following people gave their time and energy to this year’s program:

  • Gwen Moore
  • Richard Burt
  • Dalton Roberson
  • Marcus Winfrey

Please enjoy the pictures of we took

Please support this iniative so that we can bring programs like this and others to our young Black Boys. We intend to create a new future for them and we need your support:

Donation Link:


End of me “talking”, let’s hear from some people share about this year’s academy!

Our Students

Our Parents and Guardians

Our Volunteers

Thank You for your support in 2021!

Dear AYE Friends & Family,

In what has been a challenging couple of years, we take a moment to acknowledge all that we have to be grateful for.  You, as a supporter and partner of AYE, are at the top of our list. Your support has enabled us to foster connections with community leaders and organizations who share a common goal of empowering the lives of youth and families.

In 2020-2021, we’ve made an impact in a variety of ways:

Emerging Leaders Showcase

AYE launched the Emerging Leaders initiative, providing a symposium for leaders in the midst of new work that is positively impacting the lives of youth. In partnership with the Better Detroit Youth Movement, this initiative provides a venue for the Metro Detroit region’s emerging leaders to gain exposure for some wonderful work while providing AYE’s community members and supporters an opportunity to contribute to raising the seed money for the work.  Our first three events collectively raised nearly $10,000 to provide seed funding for 5 emerging Leaders and initiatives. For the first time, we engaged an Intern to help us do this work.

Detroit Boyz Rock!

Golf: This summer our Detroit Boyz Rock! initiative partnered with Building Better Men and contributed $1,000 to continue to support Building Better Men’s golf clinic. This enabled the initiative to raise matching funds. In 2021, the donation allowed 43 young Black men and boys to experience the game of golf (Instagram post).

Journaling Sessions: Inside of our commitment to creating a world where young black men and boys are empowered to create and define for themselves what being a man is, we conducted two online Journaling sessions in summer 2021. We are currently planning to hold in-person sessions in early 2022.

Bridging 8 Mile

Bridging 8 Mile donated $500 to the Yusef “Bunchy” Shakur 15th annual school backpack giveaway, benefiting over 500 children each year. AYE also donated 20 sets of hats, gloves, and socks to the D’faction project on the east side of Detroit. AYE raised over $4,000 to renovate the home of 3 orphaned young people

Bridging US 23

In partnership with the Washtenaw County Dispute Resolution Center, Bridging 23 hosted its first virtual community Peace Circle with resounding success. Leaders from Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti envisioned a shared future. The next Bridging 23 Community Unity Walk between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor is scheduled for the spring of 2022.

Financial Peace for Youth and Families

The Financial Peace Initiative focused on teaching financial literacy through the use of a game named Cash Flow, for high school students, young adults, and families. The game sheds light on everyday decision-making about finances, in a fun and learning context.

Community Development & Leadership

Our Community Development & Leadership initiative continues to thrive and has provided scholarships for 5-10 inner-city young people and youth mentors to participate in leadership development programs such as the Landmark Forum.

The community impact from the above activities were made possible through the generosity of our AYE community partners and supporters like you. Thank you for your continued support in furthering our mission this year and in the year to come. All of our initiatives are volunteer-led and are made possible by your and others generous donations. We invite you to make a special end of year contribution to support our initiatives. You can make a one-time donation or set-up recurring donations using the link below:

Make a single or recurring donation to AYE

We are grateful to have you in our Association for Youth Empowerment community. Every gift makes a difference – together, we can do this!

Wishing you and your families a happy and fulfilling holiday season.


  • Robert Cooper, President
  • Roderic Scott, Treasurer
  •  Jennifer Young, Secretary
  • Jeff Gabrielson
  • Charles Primas
  • Angela B. Wilson

Emerging Leaders Showcase June 8th, 2021

The Emerging Leaders initiative provides a symposium for leaders in the midst of new work that is positively impacting the lives of youth. It is AYE’s newest initiative, developed as a response to the need to use virtual tools that have become our lifelines since COVID-19.

Name: Shaton Dockery 

Program or project/work title:The Vault – Youth Entrepreneurship Program

Project Summary: To teach and give young entrepreneurs the experience of starting and running a business. 

E-Mail: Email: [email protected]

Name: Ashley Primas 

Program or project/work title: Emerging Leaders Showcase Coordinator

Project Summary: To expand, grow and lay a foundation for the Emerging Leaders Showcase. 

E-Mail: [email protected]

Social Media links:  aye_detroit (Instagram), AYEDetroit (Twitter), AYEmpowerment (Facebook)

Emerging Leaders Showcase – Feb. 9, 2021

The Emerging Leaders Showcase provides a symposium for leaders in the midst of new work that is positively impacting the lives of youth. It is the Association for Youth Empowerment’s newest initiative, developed as a response to the need to use virtual tools that have become our lifelines since COVID-19. In partnership with the Better Detroit Youth Movement, this initiative provides a venue for metro Detroit region’s emerging leaders to gain exposure for some wonderful work while granting AYE’s community members and supporters an opportunity to contribute to raising the seed money for the work.SHOW LESS

Thank You from the AYE Board!

Dear Friends,

At this time of year we take a moment to acknowledge all that we have to be grateful about.  The Association for Youth Empowerment (AYE) partners with community members and organizations who share a common purpose of recognizing social oppression and fostering respect, acceptance and compassion in our families, schools and communities. In recent months we accomplished this in a variety of ways:

  • This summer our Detroit Boyz Rock! initiative partnered with Building Better Men and sponsored 20 young men in First Tee program with First Tee of Greater Detroit.
  • In partnership with Ellen Abramson, AYE established an endowed scholarship fund at Washtenaw Community College in honor of her late husband and AYE founding member David Abramson, David Abramson’s Promise. This then inspired the Board to establish a similar scholarship fund at Wayne County Community College, David and Ellen Abramson Association for Youth Empowerment Scholarship. These endowments provide students with a financial need the opportunity to enter into the skilled trades.
  • The Hazel Park High School Empowerment Zone (E-Zone) initiative continues to thrive by creating a safe space for youth to connect weekly and inspire them to achieve their goals.
  • Bridging 8 Mile supported Yusef “Bunchy” Shakur in his annual school backpack give away.
  • AYE received a gift from The Rich Dad Company (i.e. Robert Kiyosaki) of two adult and one kids “Cash Flow” board games and sponsored community game nights to foster conversations that equip youth and their families with the tools for financial freedom.
  • In partnership with the Washtenaw County Dispute Resolution Center, the Bridging 23 initiative continues to foster community engagement through the use of the Peace Circle process.
  • Our Community Development & Leadership Initiative partnered with the Miracle Workers group to scholarship youth in the Landmark Forum for Young People and Teens leadership training.

The community impact from the above activities were made possible through generous donations of AYE’s friends and family – individuals such as yourself.

We invite you to make a special end of year donation to support our initiatives, which enables us to continue this work in the year ahead. As a volunteer run organization, 100% of your donation goes to support our initiatives to forward our mission of challenging and empowering young people to create the Beloved Community. AYE is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and your donation is tax deductible.

To make a one time or recurring donation, please click the donate button below:

Thank you so much for your ongoing generous support of AYE. Our AYE friends and family support our work in a variety of ways, such as through your time, treasure and talent. We are grateful for your participation in all of its forms and know we wouldn’t be making the difference we do without knowing you – every person in our communities makes an invaluable contribution by simply being you.

We wish you and your families a happy and fulfilling holiday season.

In Gratitude,

The AYE Board

Robert Cooper: AYE President

Jeff Gabrielson: Vice President

Roderic Scott: Treasurer

Jennifer Young: Secretary

Charles C. Primas: Board Member

Angela Wilson: Board Member

Freedom Links Proposal

Freedom Links Case for Action

Two Articles to Read at First:

1.5Million Missing Black Men

How one Chicago principal is leaning on data to help black boys

In the New York Times article, this quote says it all as to why we need to focus on young black men BEFORE they reach teenage years: “(At Birth) The gender gap does not exist in childhood: There are roughly as many African-American boys as girls. But an imbalance begins to appear among teenagers, continues to widen through the 20s and peaks in the 30s. It persists through adulthood.”

Other articles point out to the cultural factors that begin to pull on young black men as they reach their teen age years.

If nothing is done to address this, then this gap in availability and life outcomes will persist, impacting our communities and our families.

Freedom Links represents the first sponsored activity of Detroit Boyz Rock to impact the culture. One of the intentions this initiative is that for our young men, there will be a disruption to the “normal” in their lives and in turn the communities around them. They (and the community) will not view the “way things are” as “the way things will always be”.


  • The goal is to sponsor 20 young black males to participate in a course of The First Tee
  • Target Age for participants is from age 10 to 14
  • AYE will fund a minimum of half of the cost of the enrollment costs (estimated at $600.00)
  • Timing is to be in the Late May/Early June time frame, depending upon availability of coaches

So why GOLF:

Golf is a sport where Integrity, Honesty and Respect are values in which are core to the game.

In golf you must

  • Integrity: Show up on time and be ready to play
  • Honesty: You are required to be fully honest about how you played (i.e. if you lost a ball, you need to be able to call that penalty on yourself, even when no one else is watching)
  • Respect:When others are taking their swing, you must not only be quiet and allow them to focus, but perhaps help them by telling them where their ball went.
  • Be a demand that others act the same way.

If we were to imbue that spirit within our young men, not only is this a game changer for communities and families and the outcomes of Detroit Boyz Rock will  be realized, which are:

  • There is a new found appreciation for fatherhood and manhood and what it brings,young men know that their role is indispensable in their communities
  • Communities experience a sense of partnership and see value in uplifting their young men and are responsible for always working together positively to maintain that partnership
  • Detroit communities will know and appreciate the value of young black males and see them as vital to the city’s and the communities re-birth
  • There will be a disruption to the “normal” in the lives of young black men and in turn the communities around them. They will not view the “way things are” as“the way things will always be”.
  • Young black men will develop healthy friendships,partnerships and relationships that will continuously cause and support them to move positively forward


To Donate to Detroit Boyz Rock, Click Donate Button Below

An inspirational article that speaks a lot to what Detroit Boyz Rock wants to address

How one Chicago principal is leaning on data to help black boys

Test scores were rising at Fuller Elementary School when Marilyn McCottrell took over in 2016. Yet troubling trends loomed behind the numbers.

“A lot of growth has been made,” said McCottrell, Fuller’s third principal in six years. “But that growth is not equal among students.”

She’s talking about black boys.

Black girls had driven most of Fuller’s academic improvement since the 2012-13 school year, when Chicago Public Schools handed management of the Bronzeville school over to the non-profit Academy for Urban School Leadership, which replaced the staff and principal in a turnaround effort. Black boys had improved much slower. They got most of the school’s Ds and Fs, and were much less likely than girls to meet or approach expectations for college readiness on state tests.

PARCC Scores

Last school year, McCottrell and her staff crunched the data and made changes at Fuller to shorten the gaps between boys and girls. The stakes are high. Black boys, especially those from low-income households, are more prone than their sisters to falling behind in school and running into the juvenile criminal justice system. As adults, they are more likely to be arrested, imprisoned, or chronically unemployed. McCottrell believes what Fuller did, starting with painstakingly crunching data at the school, classroom and individual levels, could help other schools do better for black boys.

But she wants to be clear about something: Black boys don’t need to be “saved.”

“They need to be respected and appreciated for the differences and the unique gifts that they bring to the educational experience,” she said.

Black boys

Fuller Elementary School students (from left)Tyrese Robinson-Guy, Terrell Johnson, and Jasean Waters at a community garden in Bronzeville.

Fuller, a Level 1 school in good standing, occupies the corner of St. Lawrence Avenue and 42nd Street in Bronzeville. Nearly all of its 370 students are black and come from economically disadvantaged households. About half of the teachers are white, and about half are African-American. When CPS turned over management of Fuller, it was seeking to lift up a school that had been on academic probation five consecutive years. Fuller still has far to go. In 2017, only 10 percent of Fuller students were ready for the next level compared to 26 percent across the school district and 34 percent across the state. Growth has been above average, but, as McCottrell said, that growth hasn’t been equal.
PARCC Scores

Last August, McCottrell arrived at Fuller for a training session for teachers bearing handouts packed with data on black boys’ grades and test scores. Middle school reading teacher Arlicia McClain was shocked to see the stark disparities.

“It made me buck up and say I need to talk to these students,” she said. “I need to know what is going on that is preventing them from improving. Is it me? Is it something going on with them individually? Is it something they are missing?”

Girls’ math scores had increased by 193 percent compared with 90 percent for boys since the turnaround effort began in the 2012-13 school year. The gender performance gap was even more striking in reading, where black girls’ scores jumped 140 percent compared with 31 percent for boys.

As McClain and other teachers reflected on the numbers, they recounted their  own experiences in the classroom. For example, they could all name which students were removed from class the most for disciplinary reasons, and nearly all were black boys.

Arlicia McClain

Fuller Elementary School teacher Arlicia McClain.

McClain realized she tended to call on black girls more in class.

McClain, African-American herself, wondered if she was favoring girls or failing to challenge boys enough, and how that could affect their learning. She resolved to push black boys more during her second year at Fuller.

She also left the session with another big take-away: A lot of boys who wouldn’t participate in classroom-wide sessions engaged more in small groups. Wedding the data to her realizations has helped the young teacher come up with tailored approaches for struggling students.

“Look at them as individuals who want to learn, but who sometimes need the individualized attention to do that,” McClain said. “If you really are about the progression of black youth, you’re going to need to be individual-focused, and you’re going to need the data to do it.”

In the 2016-17 school year, for the subjects of English language arts and math, about 70 percent of all Ds and Fs at Fuller went to black boys.

In the first quarter of last school year, McCottrell and her staff revised Fuller’s grading policies in hopes of addressing the disparity.

They switched to what McCottrell called “a more equitable grading scale,” where the lowest a student could score is a 50, adopted a “no-opt out policy” for homework, so children who failed to turn in their homework by deadline wouldn’t automatically get a zero and had to make up assignments, and allowed students to redo certain parts of failed tests and quizzes after reteaching.

By the end of the first quarter, the numbers of Ds and Fs had decreased by nearly half.

But black boys were still getting about the same percent of them as before.

So McCottrell decided to go in for a closer look.

“The numbers only tell part of the story,” she said.

McCottrell ate with boys in the lunchroom. She played flag football with them at recess. She sat with them in class, assisted their teachers, and taught her own lessons across grades and subjects.

She talked to the boys — and listened.

Jasean Waters, a black boy

Jasean Waters, 13, said he found it hard to focus on his school work.

Some distractions come from inside the classroom, like the bullies Jasean’s run into. Other distractions live in the world outside Fuller, like the gun violence whose victims are overwhelmingly black males.

“It’s a big struggle for us,” he said. “There’s a lot of people dying around here, so we gotta watch our backs, and when we’re walking home we feel like we’re unsafe, so we just focus on us being safe. It’s hard to focus on school.”

Boredom is another issue. Jasean said that he does well in math, but struggles sometimes with reading, and that his interest wanes with the lack of characters and authors he can relate to in school texts. That sounded familiar to McCottrell.  When she spoke with boys, she heard that school amounted to a seven-hour suppression of their personalities, interests, and voices — especially in reading and English classes, where black voices and black writers were missing.

“When kids have to pick a book for independent reading, they don’t relate to the characters in those classroom libraries,” she said. “It’s really hard coming to a class everyday when nothing relates to you.”

Parcc Scores

McCottrell decided to teach an optional African-American literature class every Friday during a weekly “intervention time” for students needing help in reading and math  About 17 boys showed up on the first day and read excerpts from Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” whose protagonist proclaims, “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

McCottrell said many of the boys could expertly analyze the Harlem Renaissance classic, because they related to the idea of not being heard, seen, or understood for who they really are. The students offered examples like the portrayal of black men in the media.

“Many of them were saying things like, ‘I’m not a gangbanger, but this is what people think I am, because I’m dark or because I’m tall,’” she said. “They talked about it in the context of their teachers not knowing who they are.”

The class soon doubled as word of mouth drew others in. Jasean, a C student at the start of the class, joined them. He said he learned things he hadn’t been introduced to before. He read about segregation, speeches by Martin Luther King, and books like “Bud, Not Buddy,” about a 10-year-old black orphan during the Great Depression.

He said he rededicated himself to doing 100 minutes of reading a night and by the end of last school year earned an A in reading. He said he raises his hand to ask and answer questions in class more.

“It feels good,” he said.

Jasean’s grandmother, local school council member Regina Waters, praised McCottrell’s hands-on approach with students and her efforts to build one-on-one relationships with the boys.

“She’s upfront with the kids, and she knows all the kids by name which is unusual in the short time she’s been there,” Waters said.


Fuller’s boys closed the gap with girls in several ways over last school year.

They went from getting 70 percent of the Ds and Fs in English and math to 60 percent. In 2016-17, 46 percent of boys compared with 55 percent of girls were on track, meaning they earned a C or higher in reading and math and had an attendance rate of at least 95 percent. In 2017-18, the percentage of boys on track increased by 23 percentage points compared to 19 points for girls. But sitting in her office at Fuller one day earlier this summer, McCottrell admitted something about her efforts for black boys.

“Nothing is solved,” she said.

Despite some progress last school year, when the 2018-19 school year starts, black boys at Fuller will still lag behind black girls. Forces outside of education like poverty, mass incarceration, and racial discrimination will continue to disadvantage black youth in ways that manifest in classrooms, where they land heaviest on black boys.

The odds aren’t yet even for black boys at McCottrell’s school, or at most schools across America. However, McCottrell believes that educators learned a lot that they can build on down the line.

Next year, McCottrell said she’s urging teachers to incorporate more of the black experience and black voices into lesson plans and to increase small-group instruction.

Teachers are having more data conferences with McCottrell and with each other to guide instruction and target specific students’ needs. McCottrell is also promoting more social-emotional learning techniques and restorative practices rather than punitive approaches to discipline, and incorporating cultural awareness and bias training into teachers’ professional development.

Marlene Aponte, the Academy for Urban School Leadership’s director of coaching,  said that in some ways Fuller’s story resembles other schools’ in the years after turnarounds. After focusing on rigorous instruction and ambitious growth targets,“we’re starting to really hone in on some of the pieces that we may have overlooked, such as gender bias, gender equity, access in equity,” she said.

McCottrell wants her boys to have the tools to succeed. She knows there are some issues that her school won’t be able to solve.

But it’s a start.

Guest Column: Suicide is not inevitable


Gigi Colombini

Gigi Colombini

By Gigi Colombini, Special to Digital First Media


POSTED: 06/22/18, 5:19 PM EDT
When iconic individuals like Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain end their own lives, we have to believe there was something so profoundly unhelpable about their situations that they believed suicide was the tragic only option.

As a clinical social worker with an expertise in suicide prevention, I can assure you, there is nothing inevitable about suicide. The biggest problem we face is a lack of education and understanding, even in the medical community, of what this 10th leading cause of death in America is really all about. This leaves almost everyone afraid to step in and turn the tide.

Family medicine physicians, who prescribe about 80 percent of psychiatric medications, undergo less than a day of suicide prevention training. Emergency Room docs are not required to have any. More people die by suicide than homicide. More people die by suicide than in auto accidents. The national suicide rate is 13.9 for 100,000, and recent studies show that 54 percent of those who die by suicide did not have a diagnosed mental illness.

But this is not a story of despair. If anything, we need to rewrite the story on suicide to one of hope because suicide is not inevitable.

Of the 14 people out of 100,000 who die by suicide, 999,986 find a way to endure painful struggles.

Somehow, we have come to believe that if someone is really suicidal, there is nothing anyone can do about it.

Shame often prevents people from sharing feelings, from telling someone, I’m thinking about ending it all. When we experience a spate of suicides in close proximity like we did recently, we feel powerless about the possibility of preventing these untimely deaths.

The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide suggests that the likelihood of suicide increases if three things are present in someone’s life: feeling as if they are a burden to others, social isolation or not belonging to a community, and an ability to make it happen. (More than half of all suicides are completed with a firearm!)

Having someone to literally talk you off the ledge helps immensely. A person who is suicidal does not really want to die; they just want the pain they are experiencing to stop.

The pain is so intense it makes it difficult to see solutions to their problems. Talking about it can help them see the possibility of enduring pain with the support of loved ones, community and connections.

In the U.S., the highest rate of suicide occurs among white men. During the economic downturn, we saw this happen because so many men became powerless to support their families. Unaccustomed to sharing feelings, many felt isolated and alone. We think suicide happens when you’re so despondent, you can’t leave the house. Suicide can occur from one pivotal situation that leads to despair.

I don’t know what Anthony Bourdain’s circumstances were, but I remember how devastating it was when we lost Robin Williams because people of all ages loved him. Sometimes, when men grow older, they feel a loss of quality of life; often they no longer feel valued after leaving the workplace.

Women are different. While our work is important to us, we are often connected to family and friends, and we talk about feelings.

When a famous person dies by suicide, people are doubly perplexed, thinking, they had everything; how could they do this? But rich and famous does not equal happy.

Happiness comes from connection, purpose, doing what you love. There is truth to the notion that it’s lonely at the top; achieving fame, fortune and renown can leave a person feeling alone and misunderstood.

We must change our conversation about suicide to one of hopefulness, where we all get involved in turning the tide. Even the language must change — a person does not “commit” suicide like they “commit” a crime or a sin. They die, tragically, and preventably.

When someone is grieving or struggling, be the one to start the conversation. Ask, “have you had thoughts of suicide?” And if they say, “Not really,” know that answer may actually mean “yes.” These simple conversations can save many lives.

Suicide is not inevitable. Even when someone thinks it is the answer, there is time to redirect thoughts. We simply have to care. We mustn’t shy away from getting involved.

As our society grows increasingly distant, we must double-down on connection and concern. We must “meddle” in order to make people believe they matter. Talking is the path to help.

Suicide is highly preventable. We must arm health care practitioners, educators, and community members with the tools to spot real risk, and then provide effective treatment to heal it.

Gigi Colombini, LMSW, is a psychotherapist and suicidologist with the Institute for Hope and Human Flourishing in Birmingham.