In 2006, when Lance Woods was a senior at Detroit Northwestern High School, he needed scholarship money in order to attend college. He ended up receiving $29,000, with $20,000 of that coming from the Coleman A. Young Foundation (CAYF).
Thirteen years later, through a partnership with his WeRun313 run club, CAYF, and Filthy Americans clothing, Woods wants to return the favor by raising money to provide scholarships for youth in Detroit. They are challenging people to either run two miles or donate $1 per mile as they run in the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon October 20. Donors can either give $13 for every mile ran in a half marathon (13.1) or $26 for a full marathon (26.2 miles).
“Coming out of high school, I knew that I needed to leave Detroit in order to broaden my horizons. The Coleman A. Young Scholarship was a bridge for me being able to leave,” said Woods, who was initially denied the scholarship from CAYF. “I’m operating in my purpose and I want to help change the life of a young person just like it did for me. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for them sowing the seed.”
The challenge launched October 1, with a goal of raising $10,000. CAYF and WeRun313 have raised close to $1,000 to this point, with over two weeks to go. CAYF executive director Khary Turner is running the half marathon this year and the organization is expecting to have 15 runners participate in the 5K, half marathon, and marathon runs.
The challenge originally started last year, when Turner noticed that CAYF scholars’ mental health was being affected by their physical health. Kenequia Parker, CAYF’s program manager, ran the Free Press half marathon in 2017, which impressed Turner, prompting him to run the marathon in 2018. What initially began as a challenge to raise awareness on physical health turned into CAYF being able to raise money along the way for students to attend college.
“The goal of this particular fundraiser is to get the community to engage in a discussion around our ability to excel academically when we excel physically,” said Turner, who has been executive director of CAYF since 2012. “After all, the mind is a muscle and there is no separation. A healthy body makes for a healthy mind. If we can keep doing this every year, it’ll become one of our larger initiatives.”
Woods has done all that he can to push the cause, challenging his friends, colleagues, and run club members to donate. The scholarship from CAYF allowed him to take a Greyhound bus to Nashville, Tennessee to attend student orientation at Tennessee State University, earning his degree in business in 2012. While a senior in college, Woods knew he wanted to return home to mentor Detroit’s youth. He is now a Dream Director at Cody High School and mentors youth in CAYF’s Real Skills program.
“The Coleman A. Young Foundation is the biggest reason why I’m so passionate about community and helping other people, because they sowed that seed in me,” said Woods. “I wouldn’t have been able to go out of state for school or become an Alpha (Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity) if it weren’t for them.”
The Coleman A. Young Foundation was established in 1982, after the late mayor willed his assets to the foundation to provide opportunities for the future generations in the city. Mayor Young grew up in Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood and attended Eastern High School. He went on to become the city’s first Black mayor in 1974, holding that position for the next 20 years, with little regard for the words that came out of his mouth. Young had plenty of enemies during his time as mayor, but always put the best interests of the citizens of the City of Detroit first and Turner and his team are striving to keep his legacy alive.
“The foundation and scholarship program is a great example of Mayor Young’s wildest dreams, because he envisioned students becoming leaders and professional contributors in Detroit,” said Turner. “But the new generation of Detroiters may not know who he is, having been dead since 1997. We are at the point where we have to reintroduce Mayor Young’s legacy to them and we are up for the challenge.”