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2021 community partner spotlight: Detroit Lions Academy

On our second day of Detroit Lions Charities partner spotlights, we're taking a closer look at one organization very familiar to Lions fans, Detroit Lions Academy (DLA).

DLA is a Detroit Public Schools Community District alternative middle school located on the east side of Detroit. The school provides over-age students the opportunity to learn and achieve in a structured and safe environment which addresses their individual learning and personal needs to get them back on grade-level.

The Detroit Lions history with DLA goes back to 2001 when the school was established and they are currently Detroit Lions Charities' longest running partnership.

In the spirit of the school's name, a steady presence of Lions players, cheerleaders, Legends and Detroit Lions staff provides mentorship and leadership development opportunities to help students succeed beyond the classroom.

Funding from Detroit Lions Charities helps DLA address student barriers to education by meeting basic needs and providing supplies and resources, including clothing. DLA is a uniformed school and each year students receive two new uniforms from the Lions. To remove a lack of clean clothing as a barrier to school attendance, the Lions installed a washer and dryer in the school, so students are never without clean clothing.

To help ensure students and their families have access to food, the Lions provide additional snacks and meals for students to bring home to their families or eat after school. Nutrition is one of the most crucial aspects to learning and function.

In addition to eliminating certain basic needs barriers, Detroit Lions Charities provides student incentives to be used as a reward for good school attendance, improved test scores and for completing testing. Lions CB Jeff Okudah and other players have made morning announcements to help encourage attendance.

To further incentivize school attendance among students, Detroit Lions Charities supports the school by providing field trip opportunities and in-school activities for students. In January 2020, Lions Legends and players joined DLA students for a hands-on learning experience with Robot Garage – furthering student interest in a school Robotics Club and in STEAM programming overall.

As a highlight each year to celebrate students, the Lions host a promotional ceremony for Detroit Lions Academy 8th graders as they prepare for their next chapter in high school. Students are acclaimed and congratulated by Lions players, cheerleaders, Legends and staff.

Along with providing ongoing resources for the school through Detroit Lions Charities, the Lions have awarded $75,000 in scholarships to 12 DLA students since 2019 through the Detroit Lions Inspire Change social justice initiative, along with tutoring services from Book Nook Tutoring.

Around the holidays, Detroit Lions Charities places a special focus on supporting DLA families and students. This past Thanksgiving, the Lions and Kroger provided fresh pies and Kroger gift cards to each family to be used to purchase Thanksgiving dinner.

Every December, Shop with a Lion has become a long-awaited experience for students, players and staff alike. This past year, instead of the traditional Shop with a Lion event in a Meijer store, Lions staff teamed up with Meijer as part of the annual Season of Sharing initiative, to bring gifts directly to student homes. The Lions, along with the Detroit Police Department, spread holiday cheer to students who may have otherwise gone without, especially amid a pandemic that has disproportionally affected people of color.

"This school year has been unique, and it has been challenging for students, staff, and parents at Detroit Lions Academy. Although we are going through these challenging times, we are so fortunate to have our partners the Detroit Lions organization," said Detroit Lions Academy Principal Alean King. "We are so appreciative of the tremendous support of our partners. Whether it was providing food for students to take home for the weekend, clothing, hygiene kits, coats for the winter and new technology for students and the school."

View photos from the DLA drive-through graduation event on June 23, 2021.

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