Building literacy in Detroit

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What began as a simple back-to-school supplies drive and “Stuff The Bus” campaign transformed into a multicultural literacy initiative to benefit Detroit’s Osborn Preparatory Academy.

Osborn teachers needed complete novel sets to teach the 700 students. More importantly, they needed books that resonated with their Hmong and African-American students.

“Our goal is to help these students develop a passion for reading, and having books and characters that the students identify with is a huge part of that development,” said Brian Peck, Stuff the Bus coordinator and Spanish teacher at Osborn High School. “Even though I’m just the Spanish teacher, I still am a literature teacher. When I ask the students ‘What are you reading today,’ the answer should never be ‘nothing.'”

DTE Energy’s employees rose to the challenge. On Tuesday, Sept. 5, Osborn students filed into English classrooms and started the school year with 17 new, complete novel sets to inspire them, including classics like “Of Mice and Men,” “Lord of the Flies” and “A Farewell to Arms,” to more recent influential works such as “Things Fall Apart,” “Star Girl” and “Kindred.”

“We put out the call to our executives and employees to come together to purchase these novels and additional library books for the year, and the response was immediate,” said Nancy Moody, vice president, Public Affairs at DTE Energy. “Within a few days, our teams had committed to donating every novel set on the list, and in total more than 600 books, for this important initiative.”

On the final day of DTE Energy’s second annual Month of Caring, the company’s month-long initiative to give back to communities – more than 55 employee volunteers sorted the collected items and stuffed DTE Energy vehicles before departing to the school for delivery.

Walking into the school, teachers were cleaning out and setting up classrooms for the new school year, students sat in on orientation and red shirts walked through the halls carrying boxes of books to unload and unpack. Smiles grew on the faces of teachers, and there was a celebration as the books went onto bookshelves right in the nick-of-time.

“We are so incredibly grateful for our partnership with DTE,” said Peck. “Most companies are willing to give, but you didn’t just give, you all actually asked and listened to what we needed. You made our agenda – your agenda.”