The safety’s STEM Youth Literacy Program brings educational opportunities to Detroit area students

On November 10, Don Carey visited Dixon Educational Learning Academy and delivered new books to more than 200 students as part of the STEM Youth Literacy Program he co-founded.

Carey did the same the week before. And the week before that. And the week before that. In fact, he spends nearly every off-Tuesday overseeing a STEM program at Detroit area schools, and he often invites teammates to join him and volunteer their time for the day. This week, linebacker Brandon Copeland and defensive back Isaiah Johnson were on hand for the activities.

“Apart from seeing my family, often times the school visits are the highlight of my week,” Carey said. “Seeing the faces of the children light up when I walk down the hallway always warms my heart. I truly believe that the best way to impact a child is by spending time with him or her.”

The veteran safety has been spending a lot of time with Detroit’s youth through the initiative. In collaboration with Athletes for Charity and Tata Technologies, Carey is uniquely encouraging students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math careers through reading and writing.

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic… and Science!

“I have a degree in Building Construction Technology from Norfolk State University, so an interest in STEM comes naturally,” Carey said. “We are inspiring the great minds of our youth by engaging them in science, technology and mathematics to develop skills that will help them achieve overall success in life.”

The STEM Youth Literacy Program introduces students to 21st century careers in science and technology, and the curriculum includes monthly book distributions by Carey and his teammates. Through partnerships with Ford Motor Company, the Detroit Lions and others, players deliver more than 500 age-appropriate STEM-related titles and read to students at four different schools each month.

“Our program is founded upon literacy,” said Carey. “Cathleen Laporte (of Athletes for Charity) and I both believe that reading is one of the most fundamental skills any successful person can obtain. The STEM aspect comes from the booming vocations in that sector. There are more jobs than there are qualified candidates and there is still an issue of diversity in the field as well.”

STEM Takes Roots and Branches Out

Carey launched the Youth Literacy Initiative in 2013, and in 2014 he was instrumental in selecting Dixon Educational Learning Academy and Clark Preparatory Academy to implement the 10-month STEM program. In 2015, it was expanded to include the Detroit Institute of Technology College Prep High School at Cody, as well as an early learning center for pre-schoolers. One Monday morning each month, Carey stops by the high school for two hours before reporting to practice.

This week, Carey spent extra time at Dixon. While the program typically enrolls 25 students per grade level, he had the opportunity to visit the participants’ classrooms and was proud of their level of engagement.

“It was a joy to hear our STEM students explaining what we do in the program and what they were learning to the other kids and then seeing the other kids wanting to be a part of what we are doing,” Carey said.

The program also offers incentives like tickets to Lions and Pistons games or autographed items for academic achievements.

“We’ve seen tremendous progress,” Carey said. “We see their grades improving because they want to win our prizes. This is a major impact when a school is rated as a failing school in the District.”

And it’s not just Carey noticing the impact.

“We have received letters and phone calls from parents and teachers telling us about the excitement students have about our program,” Carey added.

Engineering a Brighter Future

The Hampton Roads, Virginia native thanks his own parents for the sense of purpose that drives him to spend his off days with students. My passion for influencing the next generation comes from my parents,” Carey said. “My dad taught me that success is not only defined by the number of milestones I achieve for myself, but rather by the number of people I reach back for and pull up with me along the way.”

Carey stays just as active in the offseason. He and his wife, LaKeisha, welcomed their first child in June, and he is studying to earn his Masters in Theological Studies with a focus in the Old Testament at Moody Theological Seminar. The union’s alternate player representative for the Lions also took the opportunity to gain in-office and leadership experience through an internship with the NFLPA Player Affairs and Development Department in 2013.

“My teammates and I love imparting words of wisdom to these students,” Carey said. “I hope they will leave a lasting impact and inspire them to achieve great heights in life.”

For more information about Athletes for Charity and the STEM Youth Literacy Program, visit:

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