SOUTHGATE, Mich. (WJBK) - Some teens in metro Detroit are using the summer vacation as an opportunity to climb up the ladder of success.
They're going through STEP UP, a free youth entrepreneur training mentorship program. STEP UP stands for Stimulate, Teach, Empower, Potentially Upcoming Professionals. It's the brainchild of Dr. Tunishai Ford.
The STEP UP program brings in professionals to teach 20 teens the world of business. That includes everything from etiquette and dressing for success, to internet marketing and coming up with a business plan.
"I learned how to start my own business," said Mya Stanley. "Like what important papers I need, how to start it. It's very important because I want to have a hair business and help people who are less fortunate. They may not have the money to pay for prom and to get their hair done."
"When you're down in the dumps and you have nowhere to turn to, this place actually helps me prepare for the future because you're out with people every day and this helps me out a lot," said Jeffrey Richmond.
He's one of the 20 kids going through the program. Ford is running the 10-week program purely on donations and wants to give disadvantaged youth in our area something she never had. She grew up in a poor, single-family home.
"Most of these kids are from low or moderate income families," Dr. Ford said. "And we had picked these kids, they fill out an application, we read them thoroughly. And some of the stories they wrote in their essays were just phenomenal. We have one kid who is homeless; he told us his teacher said he is going places. He has big dreams but he's homeless."
There's a lot of heart in these classrooms. Between that and the hope instructors give them, it's a powerful combination turning dreams into passion.
"I thought I was going to ease my way into it but as soon as I got here I got notebooks, I got everything. I have learned so much that I feel like a professional right now," said Mohamed Monet, a Taylor high school student.
And he isn't alone. The teachers are walking away equally satisfied.
"Every day I think about these kids, I pray about them, I call them my babies," Dr. Ford said. "They are big boys and girls but they are my babies because I love them so much and I've connected with these kids."
For more information on STEP UP, or for information to make a donation, click here.