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Neutral Zone, DTE Energy Foundation Expand 'Youth Driven Spaces' Program In Detroit

Nonprofit organizations throughout the city will receive training and coaching to add a youth voice in their work

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Oct. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Neutral Zone, a nonprofit organization that helps teens cultivate 21st century skills, will be expanding its Youth Driven Spaces program in Detroit with a $75,000 investment from the DTE Energy Foundation. More than 150 Detroit-area youth and 40 adult mentors from ten organizations will participate in an intensive leadership training and coaching program to better fulfill the mission of their nonprofit agencies.

DTE Energy (PRNewsFoto/DTE Energy)

The announcement was made during Neutral Zone's annual fall event on Oct. 18, which honored Lizann Anderson and her husband, Gerry Anderson, chairman and CEO of DTE Energy (NYSE: DTE), for their commitment to philanthropy and Lizann's long-time support of the organization.

"The DTE Energy Foundation is proud to support Neutral Zone and its mission to ensure that even more youth have the opportunity to grow and develop in a positive way," said Faye Nelson, vice president, DTE Energy, and board chair and president, DTE Energy Foundation. "This investment will not only open new pathways of opportunity for our youth - it will foster the talents and passion of young people in our communities so that they can help cities such as Detroit reach their potential as thriving places to live, work and play."

Neutral Zone's Youth Driven Spaces (YDS) program provides training for agencies and the youth that they serve so that teens can have an active role in projects and programs. This allows the youth to develop skills such as leadership, problem-solving, communication, collaboration and critical reflection —in a safe and nurturing setting.

The DTE Energy Foundation's support will implement Neutral Zone's YDS approach in nine Detroit-area nonprofit organizations, including Alternative for Girls, Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance, Detroit Food Academy, Detroit Leadership Academy, InsideOut, Starfish Family Services, Youth Development Commission and Urban Neighborhood Initiatives. The remaining support will be for the Ypsilanti Library.  

"We have been working with Detroit-area agencies for several years and the need continues to grow," said John Weiss, Neutral Zone's director of strategic initiatives and the lead on the YDS program. "The DTE Energy Foundation's generous contribution makes it possible to work with those nonprofits that have reached out to us for assistance. The expanded project allows us to make a greater contribution to the positive changes happening in Detroit."

The DTE Energy Foundation funds will be used to expand the scope of work that the Neutral Zone has been doing in Southeast Michigan since 2010. This support will build on work begun this summer with other area organizations, including Boys Hope Girls Hope, Developing K.I.D.S., Eastside Community Network, Wellspring, Girls Group (Ann Arbor), and My Brother's Keeper (Washtenaw County).

A teen center located in Ann Arbor, the Neutral Zone got its start in 1998 and has grown into a nationally recognized creative and leadership space that engages more than 500 high school teens annually.  Based on the premise that teens thrive when they work in partnership with adults as active collaborators, decision makers and problem solvers, Neutral Zone's approach involves young people at the very heart of everything they do. 

Neutral Zone, in partnership with the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality and Michigan State University's Community Evaluation Research Collaborative, developed the YDS model to share its youth-driven practice with other school, community and arts-based organizations. 

About the DTE Energy Foundation
The DTE Energy Foundation is the philanthropic arm of DTE Energy, continuing the legacy of community support and involvement of its electric and natural gas utilities, which serve 2.1 million electric customers in Southeast Michigan and 1.2 million natural gas customers in Michigan. In 2015, the DTE Energy Foundation provided $15 million in grant support to nonprofits throughout the company's service territories. As one of Michigan's leading corporate citizens, DTE Energy is a force for growth and prosperity in the 450 Michigan communities it serves in a variety of ways, including philanthropy, volunteerism and economic progress. For more information, click here. 

About Neutral Zone
The Neutral Zone is a diverse, youth-driven teen center dedicated to promoting personal growth through artistic expression, community leadership and the exchange of ideas.  Recognized as one of the best youth leadership programs in the country, NZ hosts high-quality programs to engage youth in meaningful decision making, mentorship and leadership.  Neutral Zone offers more than 20 weekly programs in Leadership, Music Technology, Literary Arts, Leadership, and Visual and Media Arts.  For more information about Neutral Zone or the Youth Driven Spaces program, visit www.neutral-zone.org.

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SOURCE DTE Energy

For further information: Anne O'Dell, 313-235-5555