Pathways to Potential Works with the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative to Increase Safety and Improve Attendance

DYVPI thumb photo

Pathways to Potential staff are known for their perseverance, creative problem-solving and steadfast determination when it comes to busting barriers that prevent students from attending school.  Addressing evictions, utility shut-offs and even the need for an alarm clock are all part of the job.  However, the students at the three Osborn high school academies on the east side of Detroit present a challenge that’s tougher to tackle – school safety.

According to a survey by the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (DYVPI) conducted with 439

students at Osborn College Preparatory Academy in 2013, 50-60% do not feel safe traveling to and from school or being on school grounds.  School rated third as the most likely place in the community for violence to occur which tied with dark streets and ranked just below gas stations and bus stops. 

Osborn High School Staff

Partnering to Create a Safe School

One group that’s not scared are the tireless adults who want to see Osborn students succeed. This includes staff from Pathways, DYVPI, Detroit Public Schools, United Way and other organizations working together to reduce youth violence.

“Through projects and strategies like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), The Safety Station and collaborations with various community partners, we’re working to improve the school climate and culture and turn the tide on the violence that plagues this school and the Osborn community,” said, Lorraine Hurst, Pathways team member at Osborn.

Osborn High School Students

Increased Safety = Improved Attendance

According to Hurst, the partnership that has developed between DYVPI and Pathways to Potential has proven to be an effective collaboration that has made a difference in the lives of the students. 

“Our two organizations have taken on the difficult task of improving the attendance at the schools at Osborn.  Since the inception of our partnership, there has been a nearly 25% increase in the number of students receiving perfect attendance recognition.  And, there are more students receiving “near perfect” attendance as well.  The thought is that when students are engaged and learning they are less likely to be involved in unacceptable behaviors,” said, Ms. Hurst.

One Student’s Perspective

When asked why she thinks violence at Osborn persists, one student explained, “There’s a lot of gangs.  My personal opinion is that these teenagers are hurt. They’ve been through a lot and they don’t know any other way to take out their anger.  A lot of them have people and family who are in jail.  Moms and dads who aren’t at home so they’re angry.  They don’t know no other way to get it out so you don’t know what to expect. You could be walking and someone could try to fight you because they’re angry.  They don’t know how to handle it.”

This testimony shows Pathways staff are right where they need to be.

“One goal of Pathways is to increase the safety of the children and families that we serve.  That means increasing access to prevention services, engaging disconnected youth, connecting vulnerable youth and adults to a protective network, and assisting in developing a safe community.  We’ll continue to work in the Osborn academies until this is achieved,” said, Jean Ingersoll, Acting Director of the Program Development Division of MDHHS.

This article is one of a series highlighting community partners working with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to improve attendance in schools across Michigan. Through Pathways to Potential, DHHS has placed success coaches and other employees in over 200 schools across the state. These people work one-on-one with families to identify and remove barriers to children attending school. We are always looking for new partners, volunteers and donors. Visit to learn how you can donate, partner or volunteer.