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Washtenaw United: Finding The Right Path Through The Peace Neighborhood Center In Ann Arbor

Peace Neighborhood Center
United Way of Washtenaw County

For 50 years, the Peace Neighborhood Center in Ann Arbor has been providing opportunity to those facing social and economic challenges.  The work continues today with services, such as the Alternatives for Youth (AFY) program.  The center's executive director, Bonnie Billups, Jr., joins David Fair for a conversation about creating opportunity and working toward equity in this week's "Washtenaw United."

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'

One of United Way of Washtenaw County’s goals is to increase the graduation rate for economically disadvantaged youth.  The data show that:

  • 1 in 3 students in Washtenaw County are economically disadvantaged
  • Overall Graduation Rate: 89%
  • Economically disadvantaged Grad Rate: 71.9%
  • Only 53% of economically disadvantaged 3rd graders are proficient readers

Links to data sources can be found online here.
The strategies:

  • Fund programs that intervene and support economically-disadvantaged youth with a focus on tutoring, attendance, educational advocacy and more.
  • Fund programs that provide security and support for youth outside of school.
  • Fund programs that provide youth with mentors or other adults that can model, support or advocate for youth.

The disparities between students in schools is unacceptable.  United Way of Washtenaw County is proud to partner with Peace Neighborhood Center, as they support students in their academic and social-emotional success.  When all students do well, our community thrives.

Bonnie Billups, Jr. began his career in supportive services for families and youth at a young age.  He first became involved with Ann Arbor’s own Peace Neighborhood Center as a child enrolled in the agency’s Youth Programs back in the early 1970s.

Proving himself to be a reliable and mature young man, Bonnie was hired on as a Program Assistant at Peace in 1976.  He continued in that capacity through 1985, helping the agency expand and establish many long-standing services such as Peace’s Summer Day Camp program in 1982.

Bonnie left the agency in 1985 to travel to California and pursue a career in music.  While in the Los Angeles area, he continued to work in the youth development field as a Youth Lead Specialist at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services.

In 1991, he returned to Ann Arbor and Peace Neighborhood Center as the agency’s Program Director, a role he took on to great success for over 15 years.  In 2006, he took over for the retiring Rose Martin as Peace Neighborhood Center’s Executive Director and continues to lead Peace in its role as a pillar of the youth and family service nonprofit community in Washtenaw County.  Bonnie also has continued in his musical career as an instructor at Washtenaw Community College in the School of Music and Performing Arts.

Bonnie is a member of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Blue Ribbon Committee where he helps to advise the school district on decisions and strategies to provide effective service to at-risk youth.  He is also a founding member of the Washtenaw Alliance for Children and Youth, serving on its Steering Committee and helping to define that collaborative’s role in establishing the best possible safety net for young people in Washtenaw County along with the other member youth development agencies.

Bonnie is proud to have served the youth and families of Washtenaw County for almost 40 years and to lead Peace Neighborhood Center into its fifth decade of its longstanding mission to break the cycle of poverty in our community.


United Way of Washtenaw County

Peace Neighborhood Center

Peace Neighborhood Center Youth Services

UWWC Data on Washtenaw County School-Aged Youth

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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