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Red Wings honor Pamela Good as final Women's History Month Game Changer

Beyond Basics Co-Founder and CEO recognized for her tireless and impactful work closing the literacy gap

by Jennifer Rogers @DetroitRedWings / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings' Game Changers series continues with the final honoree of Women's History Month, Pamela Good, the Co-Founder and CEO of Beyond Basics.

Beyond Basics is a student-centered, literacy nonprofit that has touched the lives of 90,000 children.

Through one-on-one reading intervention and holistic literacy enrichment for Detroit-area students and families, Beyond Basics aims to eradicate illiteracy and transform the lives of those in the program, in turn creating stronger communities. Currently, Beyond Basics serves students attending 23 different school locations in Detroit, Taylor and Pontiac with the goal to bring the students they serve to grade-level, proficient literacy.

 

[Learn more about Women's History Month at DetroitRedWings.com/Equality]

 

In 1999, Good was on her way to Herman Rogers Academy in Detroit to drop off coats for students. She had no idea that this trip would change the course of her life. Upon walking into the school, she quickly realized that these kids needed more than coats. Good was completely unaware at this point that there was an epidemic of illiteracy; she just simply could tell that they needed more.

"I kept thinking, well, I've brought coats and kind of chastising myself for that," Good said about that day. "They need way more help than that. And I just said I would do more. I didn't really have any idea what that would look like, but I left there saying I would do more."

Good had an immediate opportunity to act on that promise through her son's elementary school class. Fifth graders from her son's school paired up with second graders from Herman Rogers Academy, helping them write stories that were turned into hardcover books. Pilot programs throughout Detroit-area elementary schools included publishing student stories, book clubs, art projects and field trips.

"When we found out the kids in these schools could not read, we embarked on solving that, which took three or four years," Good said. "Then in 2008, we started to see that grade-level movement and that is when we really became a literacy organization -- when we could achieve grade-level moves with kids who were that far behind."

Watch: 100 and Change Entry (Pamela Good)

Beyond Basics continued to grow and develop a system to help children improve in an average of six weeks. The program that Good co-founded focuses on closing the literacy gap through one-on-one intensive tutoring, an hour a day, five days a week.

The literacy gap is defined as any student more than one grade level behind, and in school districts like Detroit, that encompasses 85 percent or more of students.

"It should make all of us uncomfortable to know that there are probably 43,000 attending school in Detroit today that are not able to access education because they cannot read well enough," Good said.

Good's passion to help close the gap and address the epidemic of illiteracy is palpable and it has not gone unnoticed by local and state organizations.

In 2015, Good was the recipient of the Award of Recognition from the Educational Achievement Authority of Michigan. In 2019, Good was selected as Detroit News' Michiganian of the Year. And this year, she was honored by WJR in their Women Who Lead initiative.

All of the accolades and awards are great, but they are not what drive and motivate Good to continue Beyond Basics' mission.

"Watching the light go on for a student and seeing the impact it has in their lives is the reason that all of us are working so hard to do this, and they all deserve it," Good said. "That is what it's all about, that is why we push so hard, that is why we stay the course."

Beyond Basics does not have an age limit. For Good, the most important thing people can realize is that learning to read, regardless of age, changes lives. The program has helped everyone from school-aged children, to parents, to older individuals. The goal is to provide resources to help those in a broken system, because literacy is for everyone.

Literacy is more than learning how to read. Lack of literacy skills impact the effectiveness of the entire education system. That is what Good has worked so tirelessly to bring to the forefront.

"As soon as the adults recognize there is an epidemic and go and give the kids what they need, it changes the narrative, it changes all of the possibilities of what is going on in our inner cities," Good said. "You can now empower kids so they can access education and they can go on and do things in their lives, just like all of us want."

Since 2002, when Beyond Basics became a nonprofit, it has established an in-school publishing center that accompanies an on-site writing program and the stories that children write are bound into hard cover books for the students.

Beyond Basics provides enrichment classes such as Art with the Masters, a small group lesson about master artists, incorporating a variety of art projects, strengthening relationships between students and their tutors. Another enrichment offering is the International Art and Writing Program that allows students around the world the opportunity to represent the program theme in artwork and essays.

Just this year, due to COVID-19, Beyond Basics shifted to an online platform allowing students to still work directly with their tutors, seeing results on-par with their normal in-person program.

With all the impactful work that Good and Beyond Basics has accomplished in the Detroit area, there is still so much more to be done.

Good hopes to see the one-on-one tutoring model of Beyond Basics serve as a template for other districts in Michigan and throughout the country. Illiteracy is one of the key components to a cycle of poverty. While other systemic issues contribute to oppression, Good believes that literacy empowers and opens doors that have been shut for far too long.

"I think literacy is a beautiful way to open that door, introduce and reconnect people," Good said. "When we reach out and help people who need it, the blessing is really ours in return, and I think America needs something to bring us together."

Good will join the other three Women's History Month Game Changers at the Red Wings game this Saturday, March 27. All four inspiring women will be honored at the game, receive a personalized jersey and plaque as well as a $1,000 grant dedicated to a charity of their choice.

For more information on Beyond Basics, including on how to get involved, visit BeyondBasics.org.

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