Nonprofit honors pair of Southfield residents

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published July 31, 2021

 Southfield resident Curtis Blackwell poses for a photo June 23 at the Detroit Athletic Club after being named Partner of the Year at local nonprofit Beyond Basics’ annual Coming Together for the Children event. Blackwell is the founder and president of Sound Mind Sound Body, a football camp created to increase the number of football student-athletes graduating high school and earning college scholarships.

Southfield resident Curtis Blackwell poses for a photo June 23 at the Detroit Athletic Club after being named Partner of the Year at local nonprofit Beyond Basics’ annual Coming Together for the Children event. Blackwell is the founder and president of Sound Mind Sound Body, a football camp created to increase the number of football student-athletes graduating high school and earning college scholarships.

Photo by GloriousoPhotography

 Carolyn Lynn was named Beyond Basics Volunteer of the Year. Beyond Basics co-founder and CEO Pamela Good commended Lynn for her willingness to take on any task and help in any way she can.

Carolyn Lynn was named Beyond Basics Volunteer of the Year. Beyond Basics co-founder and CEO Pamela Good commended Lynn for her willingness to take on any task and help in any way she can.

Photo provided by Beyond Basics

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SOUTHFIELD — The Southfield-based literacy nonprofit Beyond Basics recently honored two Southfield residents at its annual Coming Together for the Children spring event at the Detroit Athletic Club June 23.

Carolyn Lynn and Curtis Blackwell were honored as Volunteer of the Year and Partner of the Year, respectively.

“We get a lot of volunteers that rise to the top,” said Beyond Basics CEO and co-founder Pamela Good. “They’re around so often that they become an extension of our staff. They come in and help us with everything. They come in often enough that they get to know the rhythm of things that need to be done. They’re so familiar with us that it’s very easy to get them something that may be more complicated work. Carolyn is one of those people where we could call her at a moment’s notice for help and she gets it done. She’s been that stable supporter as a volunteer. It was quite a pleasure to get to honor her.”

Beyond Basics was formed in 1999 and started out as a coat drive where Good would drive around and deliver winter coats to those in need. From there, it blossomed into a literacy organization helping students to read at grade level in about six weeks.

They are an in-person program that pulls students from their classrooms during the day for what they call an intervention. Beyond Basics also offers after-school tutoring programs.

Since forming in 1999, Beyond Basics has served 90,000 students through tutoring, enrichment programming, the arts and other activities. They have donated approximately 35,000-40,000 winter coats to families in need. Even during COVID-19, they donated just over 1,000 coats.

“It’s a blessing and means a lot,” Lynn said about the Volunteer of the Year award. “Volunteering for Beyond Basics is time well worth spending. I am always looking for ways to help others no matter how great or how small. I know through my volunteer work, I made a difference. At the same time, those I helped were an inspiration to me. It’s my life goal to be a part of the solution.”

According to numbers reported from Beyond Basics, there are 5,072 K-12 students in Southfield. An estimated 67.58% of them are reading below proficiency based on 2018-2019 Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, or MSTEP, scores. This places 3,428 K-12 students in the district in the literacy gap. Beyond Basics is working to lower those numbers.

Blackwell is the founder and president of the Sound Mind Sound Body Foundation, a football academy created to increase the number of football student-athletes graduating high school and earning college scholarships in metro Detroit.

Beyond Basics was set to partner with Blackwell and Sound Mind Sound Body last summer before COVID-19 hit. They made connections with Blackwell during the winter of 2019 and got funding to tutor student athletes one on one. Once COVID hit, the nonprofit was forced to transition to an online platform. Even online, Beyond Basics was able to work with 50 kids at Sound Mind Sound Body, and that number is expected to double this summer.

“At Beyond Basics, we mentor our young men to use athletics as a vehicle,” Blackwell said. “But what we’ve learned is that if students don’t have a solid academic foundation, they’re just a vehicle without gas. Beyond Basics’ intimate, nurturing tutoring program fosters the growth the students need to be great student-athletes. But to be a great student-athlete involves being a great student first.”

Good commend Blackwell and his team for being open to doing whatever they can to bring more to his kids and give them more opportunities.

“Curtis’ team was really good where we could work in collaboration,” she said. “If somebody was absent or needed something else on their end, there were mentors and people available for us to work together, and online, that’s so essential. We found him very easy to work with, and the reason is because he cares about the kids.”

To learn more about the many ways to get involved in Beyond Basics, — as a tutor, a volunteer or a supporter — visit www.beyondbasics.org.

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