A.A. Van Elslander Foundation Gifts $1.5M to Beyond Basics to Advance Literacy in Detroit

Beyond Basics, a nonprofit organization working to eradicate illiteracy based in Detroit, announced today a $1.5 million gift from the A.A. Van Elslander Foundation that will make an impact on literacy for students at Denby High School on the city’s east side.
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Denby High School
The A.A. Van Elslander Foundation announced a $1.5 million gift to Beyond Basics to establish a literacy center at Denby High School on Detroit’s east side. // Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Beyond Basics, a nonprofit organization working to eradicate illiteracy based in Detroit, announced today a $1.5 million gift from the A.A. Van Elslander Foundation that will make an impact on literacy for students at Denby High School on the city’s east side.

The donation, which will be leveraged to create the Beyond Basics Legacy Program at Denby High School, honors Art Van Furniture founder Art Van Elslander to ensure the legacy of the Michigan businessman and alumni of the school lives on.

“We are thrilled to support Beyond Basics’ life-changing work at our father’s alma mater, Denby High School,” says David Van Elslander, a son of Art Van Elslander, and a board member of Beyond Basics and the A.A. Van Elslander Foundation. “With the gift of literacy, anything is possible for these students.”

The partnership will allow students who require additional support in reading the opportunity to improve foundational literacy skills while also learning about the life of Van Elslander and how he built his furniture empire.

The Beyond Basics model is unique in literacy interventions, administering a diagnostic assessment and implementing an individualized reading plan five days per week, one hour per day, with trained tutors.

These students advance two grade levels on average each school year. Once literate, students can achieve their educational goals, and thrive personally and professionally in their adult lives.

The program will include:

— A tutoring room at the high school named in Van Elslander’s honor.

— Students who graduate the program will receive an Art Van Elslander Medallion Scholars certificate and medallion inscribed with the quote: “It’s not the hand you get dealt, it’s how you play it.”

— Curriculum will include education about Van Elslander’s history and legacy.

“We have always relied on private partnerships because the need to help students is so great. The A.A. Van Elslander Foundation has long supported Detroit-area organizations whose programs stabilize the lives of children,” says Pamela Good, co-founder and CEO of Beyond Basics.

“The foundation’s generous gift empowers Beyond Basics to transform the lives of students who are not yet reading at grade level and help us to immediately get to work to bring literacy to these students.”

Denby High School, located at 12800 Kelly Road, between Hayes Street and Morang Avenue, opened in 1930 and was named after Edwin C. Denby (1870-1929), who graduated from the University of Michigan Law School.

He served in the Michigan House of Representatives, owned a law practice in Detroit, and in March 1921 was named U.S. Secretary of the Navy by President Warren G. Harding.

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