STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Welcome to Mister Knight's Neighborhood, where one man tries to keep kids from dropping out

Andrea Claire Maio">Mister Knight's Neighborhood: Coach Knight from">Apiary Projects on Vimeo.

Today marks the premier of Jennifer Guerra's documentary, Mister Knight's Neighborhood. Listen to it on air at 3:o0 p.m. and 10:00 p.m or listen to it here.

Mr. Knight is Jimmie Knight, most kids call him Coach Knight. His neighborhood is on the westside of Detroit-around Cody High School. The school has now been broken up into three smaller schools. Knight works at Cody's Medicine and Community Health Academy. 

So does Robert Donoghue. He's one of the counselors. "I've been told since I've worked in Detroit, kids are used to being yelled at," he says. "But around here, a lot of the times, they respond to that."

Knight, on the other hand says he makes sure to greet kids coming into the building. "I like to tell each kid first of all ‘good morning,'" he says. "Second of all I tell them, 'I love you,' because I don't believe a lot of our kids get told that."

Cody is part of the Detroit Public Schools and like lots of DPS schools it's in the middle of an improvement plan. Guerra says Cody used to be a drop-out factory. Just a few years ago, fully 40% of kids were not graduating. 

Credit Andrea Claire Maio
The old Cody High School had cops walking through the halls with handcuffs and guns. The new, smaller Cody schools replaced the cops with Deans of Cultures. Instead of guns, they carry walkie talkies.

Graduation rates have since improved, but even the best students at Cody face more than their fair share of obstacles.   

Knight's job is to believe in these kids, and to help them graduate. Knight went to Cody as a student. He moved away from the neighborhood but later chose to move back. He sent his own children to Cody despite its rough reputation. When his kids were students he did decide to volunteer, a lot, to keep an eye on things. He ended up watching out for plenty of kids other than his own so after about a year of volunteering, the school hired Knight. That was five years ago. Each year, Knight says it's his last year at Cody.

But then, he meets that one girl who keeps skipping class, or that one boy who keeps blowing up at teachers. And he wants to help.

Like Kaylan, a ninth grade student at Cody who's still trying to find her place at the school. 

Like Kevin, a junior at Cody. Kevin was enrolled at one of Detroit's more elite high schools, but he got in a lot of trouble freshmen year and left the school. When it seemed like no school wanted Kevin, Coach Knight vouched for him and convinced the principal to accept him. 

Multimedia support for this project ?was provided by The Equity Reporting Project: Restoring the Promise of Education, which was developed by Renaissance Journalism with funding from the Ford Foundation.?


Related Content