Telegram - Serving Metropolitan Detroit Since 1944

By Renee Summers
Telegram Reporter 

Art Van Elslander's Legacy Lives on at Detroit's Denby High School


October 28, 2021

On October 20, Beyond Basics announced a $1.5 million gift from the A.A.Van Elslander Foundation that will impact students at the Detroit Public Schools' Denby High School. The donation was officially announced at a press event and will be used to create the Beyond Basics Legacy Program at Denby High School. The gift will honor the legacy of the late Art Van Elslander, who graduated from Denby High School in 1948 and went on to become one of Michigan's most prominent and respected businessmen and philanthropists. Van Elslander passes away in 2018.

Beyond Basics was established as a non-profit literacy program in 2002 by Pamela Good, who had become aware of the learning inequities between inner city schools and those in the suburbs. Beyond Basics works with the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) to provide a supplementary one-on-one literacy tutoring program in 10 of the district's high schools. The program helps students achieve grade-level proficiency in reading in an average of six weeks, setting a course for a lifelong love of learning and access to higher educational opportunities.

Wednesday's event featured several speakers including DPSCD Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Beyond Basics founder and CEO Pamela Good, and David Van Elslander of the A.A. Van Elslander Foundation. Alumni of Denby High's Beyond Basics Program also spoke about the program's impact on their lives.

"This is an investment in this generation and I can't think of a better investment than in literacy. It is not only the foundation of education, it's the foundation of many ways of life, of civic involvement, of activism, of self-awareness, and empowerment," said Vitti. "It is always encouraging to see DPS alumni give back to the district and, more importantly, its students. We hope this investment inspires other alumni to invest in this generation even more, especially when it comes to literacy."

"There is a silent epidemic in America, it's across this nation, it isn't just in Detroit, it is illiteracy and it is killing the futures of our children," said Good. "But today we are here to recognize the generous donation of a family that is donating 1.5 million dollars for intensive, one-on-one literacy intervention for the students here at Denby High School." Good also explained the donation amount was determined by the Van Elslander family to ensure all students at Denby High School had access to the Beyond Basics Program.

The Beyond Basics Legacy Program honoring Art Van Elslander will now be able to have a tutoring classroom at Denby High School named in Art Van Elslander's honor. Leadership lessons will highlight Van Elslander's history and legacy and graduates of the program will be called "Art Van Elslander Medallion Scholars" and will receive a certificate and a medallion inscribed with a quote from Van Elslander himself: "It's not the hand you get dealt, it's how you play it."

David Van Elslander, son of Art Van Elslander and member of the Board of Directors for the A.A. Van Elslander Foundation, spoke of his father's life and work, adding that the skills and knowledge the elder Van Elslander gained as a youth helped to change the direction of his life. "Beyond Basics offers the same opportunity, giving students the chance to change and control their future through literacy," he said. "We're so proud to support Beyond Basics as they work to give students the skills they need to succeed, and we encourage other businesses and community leaders to join us. We know these students are capable of incredible things and we're extremely proud and honored just to be a small part of their story."


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