By Lori Atherton
While visiting Detroit in 2008, Felicia Andrews, ’04, noticed a perceptible change in her hometown. The foreclosure crisis had just begun, and some of Detroit’s public schools were closing. It appeared that scant opportunities were available for youth.
A self-described “impact person,” Andrews reassessed her career goals and decided that the changes she was making at the macro level in South Africa through her work with the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development could be applied at the micro level in Detroit. She left Johannesburg and founded Team 313, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering the skills and character traits in youth that Andrews believes are necessary for success.
Team 313’s mission, Andrews says, is to help youngsters take CHARGE—that is, instilling in them a can-do attitude, hard work, a sense of achievement, respect for self and others, goals, and excellence.
“We want to impart foundational or core values to Detroit’s youth,” Andrews says. “Life is not a crapshoot or a game of chance; you have to work hard if you want to be successful, whether you become a doctor, lawyer, or electrician.”
Team 313 offers after-school programs, literacy tutoring, GED classes, fitness boot camps, and community gardens for young people of all ages, though most participants typically range from 11 to 17. Most of Team 313’s youth come from low-income neighborhoods, Andrews says, and have the opportunity to help revitalize the areas in which they live through the organization’s Block by Block initiative, which organizes neighborhood cleanups. In 2013, the young people cleared trash and debris from 31 residential areas, up from the 26 cleanups conducted in 2012.
As part of their involvement in Team 313 activities, participants are expected to accomplish personal goals, such as saving money, improving their grades, or being more active, which helps to reinforce the CHARGE values. “We are growing our youth through personal goals and hard work,” Andrews says.
While the need to help youngsters in Detroit is great and the work can be challenging, Andrews says serving as a mentor to young people and witnessing their positive transformation makes it worthwhile.
“I knew in theory what I wanted to accomplish with Team 313, but to see it in action is wonderful,” she says. “It isn’t easy being in the trenches, but when I hear positive feedback from the kids and parents, it’s very fulfilling. It’s a personal satisfaction that doesn’t come from doing well on a report or a balance sheet. I’ve come to embrace that the work I’m doing is a calling, not a choice.”