Detroit mayor commends Kids Unlimited at State of Child eventWritten by Logan Sander | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Kids Unlimited held its annual State of the Child event Nov. 11, featuring speeches from Detroit Mayor David Bing and Toledo Mayor Mike Bell.
Kids Unlimited is a Toledo-based nonprofit aimed at helping inner-city students fulfill their potential in academics, social skills and overall character. The organization has partnered with five Toledo elementary schools: Northpointe Academy, Kids Unlimited Academy, Martin Luther King Jr. Academy for Boys, Rosary Cathedral and, most recently, Discovery Academy.
Chris Amato, president of Kids Unlimited, began the program in 2006 with a group of people committed to bettering the lives of children in Toledo in a personal and effective way.
In each school, Kids Unlimited provides after-school assistance as well as all-day summer assistance. Attendance is mandatory for all children involved, and parents must sign a contract ensuring their compliance and involvement in the program.
“A unique thing about our program is that we have mandatory daily attendance. We see the same children every day, so we get to know them just as we know our own children. We know when they are having an issue in school, we know what subject they are having the most trouble with and we know all of those things because we are there every day,” Amato said.
Children receive one-on-one tutoring and work in groups to learn the importance of values like respect, tolerance and loyalty. Each child receives a meal and individual attention for any special needs or circumstances.
“When we began, we had a concerned group of individuals that really took a unique approach,” Amato said. “One of the things that you see with our program is that it’s a comprehensive effort. It doesn’t concentrate just on academics, it doesn’t concentrate on homework and it doesn’t concentrate on athletics or physical activity. We are encompassing the whole person, so that’s why we help in academics, character development and do self-discipline exercises so they learn right from wrong and they learn how to be respectful. We teach a variety of character traits.”
The State of the Child event is an annual fundraiser and dinner to thank the people involved in the program and also to share about the progress the organization has made and what still needs to be accomplished.
To begin the evening, Bell thanked the attendees, remarked on the event and the organization and then introduced Bing.
“This is a great showing — there aren’t too many [events] you can go to here in Toledo where you have this type of a showing. This is good for the organization and it’s definitely going to be good for those kids,” Bell said.
Bing, the keynote speaker, discussed his childhood experiences in education and the state of the inner-city schools now. Having grown up in Washington, D.C., under more fortunate circumstances than many students today, he sees a discrepancy between education then and now.
“I was very fortunate. I had people in my family, people in my community and neighborhood and people in my school system that really cared about us as [people],” Bing said. “For whatever reason, as you fast forward…things have changed so dramatically over time that the kids of today are not getting what a lot of us got.”
Bing went on to commend Kids Unlimited for what it has been doing to mend this discrepancy and better the lives of inner-city children through education.
“It’s unfortunate, but because of you and because you recognize how important children are, you’re doing something about it. Too many people like to talk about it and do nothing…and you’ve got people doing this for little or nothing. They’re doing it because they know it’s the right thing to do and they know it’s going to make a difference in the lives of these children,” he said.
Ending the night was Kids Unlimited board member Mike Gibbons, who discussed the effectiveness of the program.
Kids Unlimited has reached more than 2,000 children in the past seven years, and has seen overall improvement in its students test scores and behavior, Amato said. One student, who previously had been earning Ds and Fs, had his Ohio Achievement Test scores rise 50 to 60 points, and placed in the 94th percentile on the entrance exam to a leading college prep school.
According to a parent survey from the Ohio Department of Education 21st Century Grant, 98 percent of parents say their children are performing better in school since being a part of Kids Unlimited.
Amato said he is happy to see the objective impact his organization has had on the local school system, and has a high hopes for the future.
“There are thousands of children that are growing up in the inner city, and we would like to reach as many of them as we can. Whether it’s a charter school, Toledo Public Schools or a private school, we would welcome that partnership. We have a lot of hope for the futures of these children and what can be achieved in the inner city. These children are very bright and capable, and we’ve found that when someone pays attention and is consistently there, they will respond in a positive manner,” Amato said.