Sharing Brilliance, Bikes, and Smiles

Corporate citizenship  is a term used to describe a company’s role and responsibility to be a positive presence in the community it is a part of.  International Automotive Components(IAC) under the leadership of President and CEO James Kamsickas has done just that.  IAC demonstrates their commitment to Detroit and its surrounding areas by fostering partnerships with community focused organizations while creating meaningful volunteer opportunities for their employees to be engaged in during the workweek.

IAC recently had its Global Executive Team in Southfield MI and built bicycles together from start to finish as a part of a team building exercise.  The team didn’t know that they were making the 11 bicycles for mentee’s in the VIP Mentoring program at Charles Wright Academy in DPS.  Neither did our mentee’s.

With the help of Charles Wright Academy, the IAC HR staff, and VIP Mentoring, we coordinated it so the mentee’s and mentors only knew they this was a special field trip for the mentee’s to see where their mentor’s worked.  Our mentee’s arrived at the IAC North America and Asia Regional Headquarters in Southfield, Michigan and were greeted by their mentors with lunch and some activities.  Meanwhile the Global Executive Team was just putting its finishing touches on the bikes in the IAC showroom next door.

Next VIP Mentoring’s Match Specialist and Community-Based Location-Specific facilitator at Charles Wright Academy, Jarret Schlaff, was brought next door to tell the Global Leadership Team a little bit about the VIP Mentoring Program and how IAC makes a difference in the lives of our young people once a week through our partnership with Detroit Public Schools.  This team numbered in the high 20’s and was represented by folks from across the globe including Asia, Australia, and Europe among others.

Just as Jarret was wrapping up, the mentee’s and their mentors were congregating in the holding area unaware that just beyond the door in front of them were  customized black and purple bikes for each mentee.   Mr. Kamsickas  followed up on Jarret’s remarks by telling the Global Leadership Team that the bikes they had just spent hours constructing by hand were going to be given to the VIP mentee’s just mentioned.  After the boisterous applause subsided, Mr. Kamsickas then said that as an extra bonus you get to also meet the mentee’s and their mentors.  After a loud, “please join me in welcoming the VIP mentee’s and their mentors”, the doors opened and out walked the VIP mentee’s, unsure of why a group of strangers were applauding them.  This walk quickly turned into a sprint once they caught glimpse of the bikes.  The ear to ear smiles brought tears and smiles to faces everywhere.


After the bikes were tested out by some very excited riders the mentees and their mentor’s stopped for a bit to capture the moment.  Then the whole group took a few pictures together to celebrate youth and adult brilliance, bikes, and smiles.


An Afternoon of Exposure, Fun, and New Introductions

VIP Mentee’s Experience the IAC North American & Asia Regional Headquarters’

Every Wednesday from 1:00pm-2:00pm the cafeteria at Detroit Public School’s Charles Wright Academy in Detroit is filled with 13 International Automotive Components (IAC) Mentors and the smiling faces of their mentee’s ranging in age from 7-11.


Thanks to the dynamic leadership at IAC with their commitment to providing rewarding volunteer opportunities for their employees and giving back to the community; these 13 mentors have invested their time, passion, and energy into the futures of these youth through mentoring for an hour every week since November 9th 2011.

A large component of what makes mentoring so successful is the exposure our students get to new ideas, people, and experiences.  The VIP Mentoring Field Trip to IAC on March 28th was one of those opportunities.

The large vans provided by IAC arrived at Charles Wright Academy at 12:30pm sharp and the students and a few chaperons arrived at the IAC North America and Asia Regional Headquarters by 1:00pm wearing their new IAC T-shirts.  We were welcomed warmly by the whole IAC mentoring family in addition to a few new faces and an amazing array of snacks and refreshments.



After the students signed the IAC Welcome card they sat down with their mentors and completed a very fun IAC crossword puzzle and were given a tote bag filled with goodies.  Shortly after arriving, the mentee’s were greeted by IAC President and CEO, James Kamsickas.  Mr. Kamsickas gave a very positive and motivational speech to the group and then took the time to talk with every mentor/mentee pair .

 After wrapping up the afternoon’s activities inside the main building, the whole group traveled next door to another facility where IAC mentor and Director of advanced engineering, Gail Miciuda gave an educational tour of the facility and gave a hands-on demonstration showcasing some the components that IAC creates.  The mentee’s had a blast and all used their IAC notepads and pencils to take some good notes.



This day would not have been possible if it weren’t for the amazing idea by Human Resource Specialist and IAC Mentor Jenna Ulicki and the planning done by other mentors including Cathy Sanchez and other folks in the HR Dept.  We would also like to thank Mrs. Lyons, an administrator at Charles Wright Academy for all her help in making this event possible.

This was a great afternoon with many more to surely come.  Here’s to being the difference.

Breakfast at The Carr

VIP’s Breakfast at The Carr  helps VIP Mentoring bring together people, partnerships and collaborations while spreading the good news at the Virgil Carr Cultural Center.

Detroit Soup and the Arts League of Michigan will begin a partnership in the next few months.  VIP Mentoring and Compuware will host a community service project in the spring.  We are looking to bring more people together to learn how we can work together.  That’s the point of every breakfast meeting.  For one hour, once a month, we are discussing what we are all doing to make the City of Detroit better than the day before.  For the first time, mentees went ice skating in Campus Martius.  We have another mentor and his young person waiting for results to Renaissance and Cass while celebrating his admission into  Martin Luther King High School.  There are some great things happening in our city and we want to share our excitement by   highlighting the various opportunities to be the difference in the City.

I also saw my good friend Keith Zendler, Peoplemovers’ President and networking and collaboration guru (in my eyes) at the last breakfast.  He loves the breakfast idea and said it was great and wanted to be sure to get the word out to others.

And the FOOD!!!  You get to feast on a great breakfast by one of the hottest new restaurants in Downtown Detroit.  Colors Restaurant is a worker owned and operated organization focused on ensuring the rights of restaurant workers across the country.

In February, Compuware discussed Lafayette Greens,  another Urban Farm springing up in the City that offers their employees and members of the community an avenue to help make fresh local produce more accessible to residents in our community.  They also shared an impressive list of amazing volunteer opportunities their organization provides for employees in an effort to build community and an environment of  volunteerism and a sense of pride in the city.      Leor Barak of the Detroit Synagogue spoke about that wonderful building located on the corner of Griswold and Clifford in Downtown Detroit.  In January, Detroit Soup’s Amy Kaherl, YUP Connect’s Errol Bomar and VIP Mentor Mr. Marsialle Arbuckle talked for a few minutes about their support for our city and the people in it.

Detroit Soup, our first guest speaker won fourth place in the Detroit Harmonie first Annual Get it Funded Contest.  Detroit Soup hosts $5 monthly dinners to raise money for micro grants that are given to creative projects in the City of Detroit.  The organization is less and 2 years old and has already hosted more than 10 dinners and raised thousands of dollars.  Their last dinner saw an audience of over 400 people.

Hundreds of people visited the Virgil Carr Cultural Center Saturday, where President of the Arts League, Oliver Ragsdale greeted Detroit Harmonie, Detroit Soup and 7 other organizations looking to be the difference by working in the community to make it better.  The winner of the top prize of $30k was an organization, Summer in the City.  They provide volunteer opportunities to those who want to volunteer, but do not always have the time to sign up weeks or even months in advance.  This give volunteers the opportunity to volunteer when they can and without a lot of planning involved. 

One common theme is that I met all of these people at the Virgil Carr Cultural Center.  Another commonality between all of these people is that we are all looking to find ways to be the difference in Detroit.  What’s your story?  Wanna share it?  Come to our next event in The Carr Center, March 21st from 8am-9am, 311 E. Grand River in Downtown Detroit’s wonderful Harmonie Park.

Are you interested in sharing how your work is making a difference in Detroit?  If so, contact VIP Mentoring at 313-964-1110 and we will work to get you time on the agenda  at an upcoming breakfast.  We promote the city by promoting those doing good work for our city.  Don’t miss your opportunity to meet your next partner, every third Wednesday, 8am-9am, great food by Colors Restaurant and conversation with Michelle Salvatore, Recruitment Director for the Quicken Loans Family of Companies, VIP Mentoring, and the Arts League of Michigan.

Celebrating National Women’s History Month

National Women’s History Month

On March 1, 2012, President Barack Obama released a proclamation of the celebration of National Women’s History Month. He stated,

“As Americans, ours is a legacy of bold independence and passionate belief in fairness and justice for all. For generations, this intrepid spirit has driven women pioneers to challenge injustices and shatter ceilings in pursuit of full and enduring equality. During Women’s History Month, we commemorate their struggles, celebrate centuries of progress, and reaffirm our steadfast commitment to the rights, security, and dignity of women in America and around the world.”  Click here to see the rest…

From Harriet Tubman’s work building the Underground Railroad to the  women of the SNCC who organized so many during the Civil Rights movement; women have played an integral role throughout history in the struggle to shape the United States into the country it is today.  Let us reflect and celebrate the lives and contributions of all the women who came before us and all who are making history.  Every teacher, mentor, mother, sister and beyond deserve to be recognized for all that they do.  I would like to highlight the women involved with VIP Mentoring who are making a difference every day, one child at a time.

Our current and former staff here at VIP is comprised almost entirely of women who love the children in our program and work tirelessly to support them any way possible. They do this on a daily basis by making phone calls, visiting families, exploring avenues to improve our State-wide footprint, and by building relationships with community partners and businesses to fund and improve the services our program can offer.

Our mentors are made up of many women who give of their time, energy, and heart to mentor young women, and a few young men, in the State of Michigan. Giving our young mentees self esteem, confidence, someone who will listen to them, and above all, a friend they can trust and count on.  Some of the women in our program are working, some are retired. Whether they are mothers, grandmothers, or sisters themselves, they understand the importance of having a caring adult role model in the life of a young person.

We also value the wives, partners and significant others of the men and women who mentor in our program. You give up your loved one at least three to four times a month to a child that otherwise may not have a positive role model in their life.

Our program is centered around providing additional support and resources to our youth in conjunction with all that our parents and caregivers provide, to re-route the school to prison pipeline.  Mentoring cannot succeed with the support  of the Moms, Grand-moms, extended family members and caregivers who seek out programs to support their children.  Without their efforts and love for their children we would not exist.  We thank you for all that you do.

There have been women throughout history like Rosa Parks, Betsy Ross, Fannie Lou Hamer, Mia Hamm, Amelia Earhart, Oprah Winfrey and many other famous figures who have advanced the cause of women across this nation and beyond.  These women are important, but today ,VIP Mentoring wants to celebrate YOU who are making history today by serving the youth in your life. You may not see them or talk to them daily, or you may be the one dressing them and take them to school daily. Either way, you are investing your time and energy in tomorrow’s doctors, visionaries, and leaders of tomorrow, today.   

So I would like to salute the Women of VIP today. National Women’s History Month is in March but we would like to say thank you ladies for your love, effort, time, and strength every day. Without you there is NO us.

Mentoring… Be the Difference!!!

Presidential Proclamation — National Mentoring Month, 2012


We are proud to announce that on December 28, 2011 President Barack Obama declared January 2012 National Mentoring Month.  “Every day, mentors help young Americans face the challenges of growing into adulthood.  By setting a positive example and sharing their time, knowledge, and experience, mentors play an essential role in preparing our Nation’s youth for a bright future.”

This Presidential Proclamation comes one year after the President announced a partnership with businesses across America to launch the Corporate Mentoring Challenge, that encourages companies to launch a mentoring program, expand existing employee mentoring programs, or provide resources to support local mentoring programs that help youth gain leadership skills, achieve their educational goals, and increase their confidence.

We stand with the president in celebrating the contributions of all those who choose to be the difference in their communities by investing in the next generations future through mentoring.

The President described what it means to mentor; “At school and at home, in the library and on the field, mentors lift our youth toward their goals and ambitions.  As a teacher, a relative, or a trusted friend, a mentor’s steady and dependable support can inspire a child to strive for success and instill in them the confidence to achieve their full potential.  Mentorship strengthens our American family, and by teaching enduring values like diligence and self-discipline, we make a powerful and lasting investment in our youth, our communities, and our Nation.”

The president closed his proclamation with a call to action. “By lending a hand and serving as a mentor, countless individuals have empowered young Americans with the confidence, inspiration, and tools to lead rich and fulfilling lives.  This month, I encourage adults to make an investment in our Nation’s future by helping a child discover the best in themselves.

Please read the Proclamation in its entirety at


Walking The Walk

“The spirit of giving embodied by Delta employee volunteers symbolizes the heart and soul of Delta people worldwide. It’s because of them that our company is recognized as more than just an airline. We are a leader in corporate social responsibility.”

Scarlet Pressley-Brown
Director-External Affairs & Community Relations
and Delta’s Force for Global Good
March 8th 2011


Early on a crisp, spring morning, six professional adults arrived at Romulus Elementary school in Romulus, Michigan. They were met with surprised faces from the students, and were even stopped and asked by a student: “are you the school board?” They are not the school board, however. They are remarkably dedicated volunteers who are embarking on a quest to change the lives of six young people. These six professionals have themselves been trained in youth development by VIP Mentoring. VIP Mentoring has made its’ mark by cultivating, training and supporting professionals like the “Delta 6”. VIP has developed proven techniques that have helped to break the cycle of truancy, dependency, abuse and incarceration for at-risk young people. Today is the big day, the day that both mentor and mentee can begin to make tangible differences in the lives of one another.

With the help of Gretchen Notaro, the school’s Title I Specialist, each mentee is introduced to their mentor. Normal awkward moments ensue, but the mentors have been prepared for this moment and begin asking fun and engaging questions that the mentees have no choice but to smile and respond to. “What game is your favorite game in the world? Can you teach me how to play?” “What are your three favorite things about yourself?”. Humanity takes over and after just a few moments, these professionals and young people have begun their journeys together. Then the most important question is asked: “When are you coming back?”

The 6 mentors are all members of Delta Airlines’ Detroit leadership team. Each of these leaders answered the call from Andy Zarras, Vice President of Detroit World Gateway, to join him in becoming a mentor for under-served young people. Delta’s commitment to community is a global initiative, but most impressively, is not out of touch with the very real needs of the local communities in which they are corporate partners. The Delta employees who participate in this program are granted time out of their work schedules to mentor the students at Romulus Elementary every Tuesday morning.

After Mr. Zarras expressed his interest and dedication to investing in the Romulus community to the dedicated staff at VIP Mentoring, they did what they are known throughout Michigan for doing, and provided him and his team with the skills, ability and opportunity to give in the most impactful way possible: through mentoring. VIP has been providing mentoring opportunities to organizations and individuals for over 35 years. VIP Mentoring is a Detroit-based non-profit and serves as a matchmaking, training, facilitating, and support service foundation for mentor/mentee relationships all across the state of Michigan.

Romulus Elementary school principal, Mrs. Marjie McAnally, was tremendously instrumental in bringing the mentorship program to her school. She not only embraced the idea of mentorship, but was more than thrilled to welcome a respected corporate entity like Delta into the lives of the young people at her school. Under Mrs. McAnally’s leadership, the staff at Romulus elementary have become phenomenal partners in the support and proliferation of the program, and have started building relationships with the Delta volunteers. They go out of their way to help arrange and encourage anything that the mentors and mentees want to do during their time together.

The mentoring relationships have evolved and are no longer confined to Tuesday mornings during the school year. Delta arranged special events for all of the mentors and mentees.  They have spent a day at the Detroit Zoo, enjoyed an amazing bowling party, and even arranged a trip to a Detroit Tigers baseball game at Comerica Park.

The most impressive part of this story is the way the original “Delta 6” have decided to further their impact. They reached deep into their personal resources to recruit 16 new mentors. Now the “Delta 6” are the “Delta 22”, and the numbers continue to grow. Recently, the “Delta 22”, cooked a potluck dinner for their mentees and their families.  What’s in a name anyway? Progress. Delta Airlines has proven to be the golden resource that the Romulus area needs it to be. A responsible corporate partner willing to donate its’ most precious resource: people. This project is a glowing example of community at work…and it won’t stop working, or growing. Delta Airlines, Romulus Elementary, VIP Mentoring, the mentees and their families are working together to invest in our future, and theirs. Inspiring and engaging these children early will provide an awesome display for them of community in action and work in progress. The benefits for all involved are immense; but larger than this is the intrinsic value of these connections to our community, our state and our world. Change happens one small moment at a time, and Delta Airlines are being the change they wish to see.


VIP’S Location Based Mentoring Program Returns for Another Year

New School Year for the VIP Mentoring Community-Based Location-Specific Program

VIP Congratulates its Participating Schools and Businesses for over 5 years of Success!

Community-Based Location-Specific Mentoring is a program specifically tailored for organizations and individuals who desire a more structured schedule and atmosphere for mentoring.  Businesses and individuals throughout the Metro Detroit Area make a difference by mentoring Detroit youth at the same place and time each week for an hour.

5th Year

Spain Elementary-Middle School

Participating Businesses: Bodman LLP, Detroit Medical Center

5th Year

Brenda Scott Elementary-Middle School, formally Fleming Elementary School

3rd Year

Murphy Middle School

Participating Businesses: Lear Corporation

2nd Year

Nolan Elementary-Middle School

Participating Businesses: MSX International

2nd Year

Romulus Elementary School

Participating Businesses: Delta Airlines

1st Year

Charles Wright Academy

Participating Business: IAC

VIP Mentoring’s Detroit River Tour

Smiling on the River

As a part of VIP Mentoring’s summer events schedule VIP Mentoring sponsored a morning on the Detroit River with Mentors and mentees in our program.

The Event was on Thursday August 4th at 10:00 am and although it was raining pretty hard as we arrived, as soon as the boat cast-off, the clouds cleared and the rain subsided.  We enjoyed a 2 hour narrated boat ride followed by a Jimmy Johns catered lunch.

We had a great turnout with nearly 40 people in attendance.  The kids had a blast and we learned some great history while taking in the sights.  The boat launched from Rivard Plaza and traveled 16 miles of the U.S. and Canadian Detroit River shoreline.  We saw ocean bound ships, lakes ships, 360 degrees of Belle Isle, the yacht clubs, the Manoogian Mansion, and an up close look at the Renaissance Center and the Ambassador Bridge.

We even had unexpected learning opportunities. We all got to learn the effects of a boats “wake” when some bigger speed boats decided to give us a more interesting ride.

VIP Mentoring wants to thank Diamond Jack’s River Tours for helping make this event possible.  They were very generous in their sponsorship and the river tour staff was very friendly and accommodating.

Above all we want to thank our amazing mentors for taking the time to provide their mentee with great exposure and an unforgettable experience.

Be The Difference

“The launch of Detroit’s “I’m a Believer” campaign was an exciting time for us at VIP Mentoring.  As Detroit’s premier mentoring organization, we had already been believers for over 35 years – helping at-risk children and families reduce the cycle of abuse, dependency, and incarceration that limits so many young lives.

We were also honored with a federal grant to expand our Detroit and Wayne County programs all across Michigan.

Unfortunately, due to recent budget reductions, this funding has been withdrawn.

While these cuts pose a tremendous challenge – as they do to many non-profits – VIP is committed to continuing its work.  Our young people are too important walk away from. Too many bright futures are at risk. We will not retract our investment in Michigan’s youth.

Because of VIP, the lives of countless Detroiters and Michiganders have been vastly improved  – all based on our belief that providing a strong role model will positively influence a child’s perspective and maximize their own potential.

Our organization matches children with adults who can best help them shape their future – resulting in lifelong relationships and young people who develop into the mentors of tomorrow. At the same time, entire families benefit from the experience while their children bloom and grow.

Also, we encourage our young people not only to succeed, but excel.   Five VIP mentees have been employed at the summer-long Lear Automotive Youth Academy, one of our major supporters. Corporate partners like Lear, Delta Airlines, Bodman and MSX International provide mentoring and financial support, and also valuable contacts and opportunities for employment in the future.

As we move our mission forward, VIP will continue to count on our generous partners.

We also provide unique and rewarding opportunities for other businesses and individuals committed to helping young people, Detroit and Michigan.   We’re counting on more involved community members to take part in programs like these:

* Mentoring of one child, with screening and training provided by VIP; proven to make a true difference, one child at a time.

* Site-based mentoring, where employees from one company – or individuals – travel weekly to a school or community center to work together with children.

* Fund raising – as simple as an after work event with music or a silent auction, which would benefit VIP as well as a venue, artist or entertainer.

At VIP we believe in Detroit, in Michigan – and mostly in bright futures for children.

For more information – or to share any ideas you may have – please visit our website at, or call me at 313-964-1110

Detroit Kids Can Win

Detroit Kids Can Win

MENTORING is a well-documented best practice that has been tested and proven over time to serve as an effective tool to help our most vulnerable children overcome the most difficult of circumstances and succeed in school and in life. Drawing on work in the fields of psychology and personal relations, Dr. Jean E. Rhodes, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, authored a book Stand by Me: The Risks and Rewards of Mentoring Today’s Youth. In her book, Dr. Rhodes cites research-proven outcomes that mentoring can provide for our most vulnerable youth. These outcomes include youth having more positive attitudes toward school and being less likely to smoke, use drugs, carry weapons, have unsafe sex, use alcohol, smoke marijuana, and become delinquent. Quality mentoring can also support youth development by enhancing social skills and emotional well-being and improving cognitive skills through dialogue and listening. Mentoring also provides kids with caring adults who can serve as role models and advocates for school achievement.

In the July 20, 2011 Detroit Free Press Editorial Section (If All Commit, Detroit Kids Win), Emergency Manager of Detroit Public Schools Roy Roberts and Governor Rick Snyder propose a New Education Achievement System. This new system will deal with our lowest-performing 5% of Michigan schools. We must all agree that we need to provide as many tools as possible for our children to succeed, especially our most vulnerable children who likely represent the highest concentration of kids attending those lowest-performing 5% of Michigan schools. MENTORING as a research-based best practice for helping children to succeed in school is not cited, mentioned or referred to in any of the best practices proposed by the authors.

In October 2008, the Michigan Education Association (MEA) published “Dropouts: One Too Many Report.” One of the resounding themes found throughout the MEA report to effectively combat school dropout was that students needed to feel cared about in order to succeed. In particular, they needed meaningful relationships with caring adults (i.e. mentors). The importance of relationships and guidance for students is confirmed by a 2008 MEA survey of 16- to 20-year-olds found that 73 percent of dropouts said they didn’t have role models in high school. Twenty-five percent of young adults say they didn’t get the direction they were seeking while in high school to achieve job or career goals. Nearly every student who testified pointed to relationships and role models as being key to their success – or lack thereof.

While many forms of mentoring can serve as a tool to help our kids, the type of mentoring I am advocating is transformational mentoring where a personal one-to-one trusting connection is established between a vulnerable youth and nonrelated but caring adult. This type of mentoring generally evolves outside of the school and home of the child and requires a strict adherence to a set of research-based principles and practices where the mentor and youth meet regularly and consistently over a prescribed duration of time. Matches are also supported through evidenced-based practices during the length of the mentoring relationship. It is this type of

transformational mentoring that Dr. Rhodes cites as also producing the most significant outcomes for vulnerable children who are most susceptible to performing poorly in school, or worse, dropping out of school.

Governor Snyder and Emergency Manager Roberts conclude their article with a call to action for the community to support the efforts being proposed. They also make a clear statement that it will take all of us to truly transform education throughout Detroit and Michigan. I challenge both Governor Snyder and Emergency Manager Roberts to include transformational mentoring as a cornerstone in our New Educational System best practices. I would also suggest that there is something that we can all do, right now, which is investing some of our time in mentoring a child. The return on this investment of time will be children who are better prepared to do well in school and who are empowered to succeed in life. To learn more about mentoring opportunities that are available, visit, call 313-964-1110, or go to

Jerry Dash has worked in the youth and adult mentoring field for over 23 years. He currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Volunteers in Prevention, Probation and Prisons, Inc. (also known as VIP Mentoring). VIP Mentoring is a Detroit-based, Michigan nonprofit corporation whose Mission is to create sustainable, meaningful mentoring relationships for children in Michigan, especially the City of Detroit, whose difficult circumstances seriously compromise their opportunities to succeed. Mr. Dash’s professional accomplishments have included serving on the Mentor Michigan Provider’s Council and the Federal Mentoring Children of Prisoners Support Center Advisory Board. He has also had articles published on mentoring in various professional journals and has served as a lecturer and presenter on the topic of mentoring at national and international conferences conducted in Canada, England, Germany and across the United States.

Jerry Dash


Volunteers in Prevention, Probation & Prisons, Inc. (VIP Mentoring)

28 West Adams, Suite 1310

Detroit, MI 48226

313-964-1110, ext. 204