Wayne State partnership with Freedom Place landlord nominated for national award

August 10, 1999

Wayne State University and local landlord University Limited Housing Association owners and managers of Freedom Place Apartments won a nomination for a "Best Practice" award from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Walter Cohen, a Wayne State alumnus, had a great idea in 1992. The idea became a collaboration in 1994, an academic, tutoring and recreation program supported by the association for middle and high school students living in the apartments near the university. The idea took shape and took off. In 1999 it went into orbit and won the nomination.

Now with the help of $125,000 HUD Drug Elimination Grants for 1998 and 1999 and increased support from the association, the program helps at-risk children, adults and senior adults with a variety of projects.

Cohen says the Freedom Place Educational Enrichment Program is about investing in the residents and community. "Our program, which provides specific use-centered education, recreation and drug prevention, will provide a critical impact on the community as a whole," he says.

Stanley Berger of Bloomfield and his son, Michael Berger of Birmingham, are principals in the association with Walter Cohen of Bloomfield Hills, and his father Arnold Cohen of Bingham Farms.

Sharon Elliott, assistant dean of teacher education in the College of Education, coordinates the Freedom Place project. She says, "This program compliments what happens in the schools and ultimately helps the youth take that big step across the John C. Lodge expressway to become a student at Wayne State."

Through tutoring, mentoring and recreational activities after school and during the summer, students from preschool through grade 12 have a special opportunity to learn, develop self-esteem and choose positive lifestyles. Activities range from computer classes, sports clinics and field trips to conflict resolution workshops and dance lessons.

Sixty students currently participate in the program which has helped them to achieve better grades, increase community pride and reduce vandalism and crime in this government-assisted, low income housing community.

A college preparatory and recreation program attracts high school students. Graduates are eligible for scholarships to Wayne State, provided by the association; the university provides a work-study program and mentoring. Student Vernica Hamilton, a Freedom Place resident who is studying criminal justice at the university, says the program is well run. "Everything is in order," she says.

The program has something for adults as well. Adults may attend parenting workshops, GED preparatory classes, life skills training, and reading and literacy classes. Walking, exercise, fitness and line dancing sessions are available for senior adults. Senior adults work with students after school and in the summer day camp.

For more information call Pat Moore, on-site coordinator, at Freedom Place Apartments office, (313) 832-2877.