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Meeting the Moment: Skillman’s New CEO Sees Mandate for Educational Equity

By James Martinez

For The Skillman Foundation’s new president and chief executive officer, Angelique Power, achieving equity in Detroit starts with our youth.

“Watch the young people,” said Power. “Children and youth are always the metric on equity because they represent today’s priorities and tomorrow’s promise.”

Power, an accomplished champion for racial justice from the Field Foundation in Chicago, takes the helm at The Skillman Foundation as investing differently in k-12 outcomes nationwide is viewed by many as central to advancing overall racial justice and equity.

In her new role, Power will be leading the Foundation’s Opportunity Agenda for Detroit Children and striving to ensure equitable outcomes for students to learn and lead with a focus on k-12 education, afterschool, and college and career pathways. From her perspective, achieving more equitable outcomes is about tracking who gets listened to, supported, and funded.

“Many systems and sectors impact a child’s life, from prenatal through their years as young adults,” Power said. “We have an incredible opportunity – and really a mandate – in this moment to work in lockstep as partners, sharing data, goals and accountability for the well-being of children.”

THE NEW CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY 

Events over the past summer demonstrated to Power that the very idea of corporate responsibility has changed. And it is forcing tough questions about how decisions are made, who benefits, and how racialized analysis of history and institutions policies can reshape daily practices.

“Is it grants and volunteerism? Sure, it’s some of this. But ultimately, it’s about shifting power and moving resources inside every sector,” said Power, who also previously led corporate social responsibility at Dayton Hudson Corporation. She sees the strong racial equity statements issued in the summer of 2020 as a precursor to substantive change.

Following the murder of George Floyd, Power co-founded Just Action, a group of 200 individuals and institutions focused on helping organizations make their racial equity statements from 2020 real.

“Let’s start with an understanding that the racial caste system needs to be actively dismantled on an individual, institutional, and systemic level, and it’s an all-hands-on deck moment,” Power said. “This isn’t about a pipeline program to add more people of color into a space. It’s about changing education, criminal justice, housing, health, and other systems – while changing ourselves to boot. And while learning about race and racism and its impact is critical, it’s ultimately about action.”

WHAT IS THE KEY TO PREPARING K-12 STUDENTS FOR POST-SECONDARY SUCCESS? 

“This begins in grade school, where students must build traditional academic foundations in reading, writing, math, and science. This is not new. But we are learning that students need us to model a “college-going culture,” especially in underrepresented populations. This entails a support system around the child from youth to college, showing the opportunity, value, and expectation of college. This comes from partnership between colleges and P-12 districts, with consistent modeling from all adults, from parents to college presidents.”

Russell A. Kavalhuna, President, Henry Ford College

James Martinez is a freelance writer and content creation consultant in Metro Detroit.