The History of Beyond Basics


Beyond Basics began in the spring of 1999. It started as a coat donation project in one  of the urban elementary schools, in the Detroit Public School System. Our involvement in the school helped us see the perspectives of the students in extreme poverty. The deprived living conditions, as well as the injustice between the suburban and urban school districts in public education, opened our eyes. We started with the concern of the state of public school education in high poverty areas and the belief that a program such as ours could make a positive change.

For two years, pilot programs were initiated with a group of students in several elementary schools, to see how well the children responded to the idea of having new learning opportunities within their current educational system. The students showed excitement for these new learning opportunities and were consistent throughout all the pilot programs. From that moment on, the enthusiasm from the students helped guide our mission to provide the catalyst to create and grow Beyond Basics into the organization it is today.


Motivated by the response of the participating students, in February 2002, Beyond Basics was incorporated as a literacy nonprofit, with the hope of reaching more children in more schools throughout Southeast Michigan. That September,  Dr. Joanne Wagerson and Pamela Good established its first on-site Publishing Center and formalized many other programs.

As soon as Beyond Basics was in the schools all day, we realized that the children were not reading at grade level. We began to do what we could to help those students by conducting reading buddies and other activities. In the Spring of 2008, we achieved grade level movement for a group of students using the Tattum Learning Curriculum. From that moment in time, we have modified the program, working with Steve Tattum and the help of our Office of Literacy Team, to better serve our students. We consistently achieve grade level movement in 6-10 weeks with one-on-one tutoring programs.


With generous seed funding from the Farbman Group, our reading and writing activities, Publishing Centers, Art with the Masters (established in 2008 with the help of Mercedes Benz Financial Services), Expanding Horizons classes, and our Outreach Programs, have touched the lives of many children, parents and staff in the elementary schools we now serve within Southeast Michigan. In addition, Beyond Basics relies on the help from over 2,500 volunteers (from all walks of life) that help to keep the vision and dreams of both the organization and the children alive.

It is with the dedicated support from the Wayne and Joan Webber Foundation, the Farbman Family, Ira Jaffe of Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer and Weiss, Mercedes Benz Financial Services, Ciena Health Care, Garden Fresh Foods and thousands of concerned citizens who donate their time and resources to help we are able to achieve our mission. Through their dedication to us and all the vulnerable children we reach, we have become the experts in child LITERACY for education and working with students in Kindergarten through 12th grades.


In October 2018, Beyond Basics received a generous investment from General Motors Corporation to open our inaugural Beyond Basics Family Literacy Center at Durfee Innovation Society in Detroit. The center provides literacy, GED and SAT prep and workforce development services and more. By providing a literacy center in the heart of the community, entire families have access to the support they need to learn to read. It has been wonderful to realize the dream of completing the Beyond Basics neighborhood model to provide our services in the schools and in the community at large.

 It is an amazing journey! We hope you will join us!