Out-of-School Time students & staff

Dee Hankins had been in 12 different foster homes in the first 12 years of his life. Statistically, almost 50% of African American males placed in the foster care system drop out of high school, and are almost 10 times more likely to end up in a prison than to ever step foot on a college campus. This was not the case for Dee. With help and encouragement from high school educators and a college sponsorship program called United Friends of Children, he graduated from California State University, Long Beach. Shortly after that, he realized his gift for public speaking, and his story, were a perfect match to show every student they can have a chance at a successful future. 

Project FOCUS Program Director, Donna Grodus, initially became familiar with Dee and his story through his presentation at the National Out-of-School Time Conference, BOOST, she attended. She knew it would be impactful to have him speak and engage with Project FOCUS students. 

For three days in June, Dee spoke to over 200 Project FOCUS students at two large gatherings, encouraging them to focus on their resilience to rise above challenging situations. While visiting the students, Dee also had the chance to participate in some of their regular programming, and he was duly impressed. Then, he presented a master class to the collective Out-of-School Time staff members at the TrueNorth Service Center. 

“I wouldn’t have been able to wait for school to be over if I had something like this… it was amazing and really eye-opening!” 

Dee shifted his message a bit when talking to the Project FOCUS staff, hoping to encourage them in the amazing work they’re doing and the lasting, positive impact they’re having on students.

“This organization really touched me, and spoke to me… I want to take the essence back home with me and share this with people.”