As I researched for my newest novel, looking for inspiration for my male lead, an inner-city man with a heart for kids, I came across Detroit native, Mike Tenbusch. I knew I’d found what I was looking for when I saw the man’s Twitter profile, "Helping young people win their battle over poverty through relationships for the greater glory of God."
With a degree from the University of Michigan Law School, Tenbusch could have chosen a more lucrative career path but with a faith-driven need to serve, he’s given his life to improving opportunities for underprivileged urban youth. He says he became a teacher because he wanted to make a difference, and he certainly has.
In a poverty-stricken world where a child’s zip code defines his destiny, where seventy percent of children grow up in a fatherless home, Tenbusch recognized a dire need for community involvement. He’s led the way and his solutions have produced real results.
As Vice President of United Way, Tenbusch was instrumental in building a partnership between teachers, administrators, and students to restructure Detroit’s education system. Cody was once a failing school. Under Tenbusch’s leadership, the United Way raised money to pay for a restructuring program that divided the school into three focused academies. The goal was to create smaller, more intimate environments, more conducive to creating relationships between teachers, students, and the community. The result was an incredible increase in attendance and graduation rates.
Student Donniqua Alexander summed it up perfectly, “Every student has somebody who cares about them inside of Cody. Period. I don’t care what school you’re in, everybody has that teacher you can go call on or they can always lean on.”
Working with General Motors’ executives, Tenbusch also showed how businesses could partner with schools, forming personal connections with students. How the caring capital of a community could provide rewards beyond measure.
While serving on the Detroit Public School Board, Tenbusch helped a charter school district graduate more than ninety percent of its first high school class and led the effort to turnaround the city's most challenged high schools.
Tenbusch’s plans include a simple formula for churches working with schools to provide mentors and role models, mobilizing Christians to love and serve children. He believes the church is the best source to provide the city’s struggling youth with the relational connections that can help them overcome their circumstances.
While Tenbusch’s life work has touched thousands of Detroit youth, it’s a plan that could prove universal. He has a book coming out in November, The Jonathan Effect, that could take his ideas nationwide, global even. I can't wait to read the stories of the lives he's impacted.
Have you touched anyone lately?