Despite her own life challenges, Kimberly Newberry has persevered and committed herself to making a difference in the lives of local kids.
imberly Newberry’s mission began with a simple observation: In the Detroit neighborhood in which she lived, almost all of the parents worked during the day. As a result, the kids were idle, which wasn’t a good thing.
“While parents were working, the kids were playing in the street. I started to watch them get into things they shouldn’t have been doing, so my husband and I said, ‘We need to fix this.’”
Newberry began hosting activities at her house-hustle lessons in the grass, tea parties on the porch, any activity to get the kids engaged. But soon Newberry started to see a real need for a program like this.
“I felt that working families, often if you weren’t above a certain threshold, where it’s easy to pay, or you weren’t below it, where you didn’t have to pay anything, that you couldn’t get a quality service,” Newberry says. “I didn’t like the fact that people believed that to get a quality program, you had to go outside of the city of Detroit.”
She incorporated her program Developing Kingdoms In Different Stages (K.I.D.S.) in 2006, and she set up shop in a wing of a former Catholic school. However, later that year, Newberry’s work was put on hold after her husband took his own life and made an attempt on hers, due to an undiagnosed mental illness. She suffered several injuries that left her temporarily unable to talk, walk or see. During this time, Newberry says she had frequent visions of herself running Developing K.I.D.S. full time.
After her long recovery, Newberry announced to her family that she was officially leaving her job and going to take Developing K.I.D.S. to the next level.
“They thought I was crazy. I know they were thinking like ‘the bullet hit her brain.’ ‘She has lost her mind.’ But that’s what I did.”
Since the organization’s conception, Developing K.I.D.S. has worked with about 1,200 kids through its after-school and summer programs. The students are given time to do their homework, catch up on reading and then split into groups, based on age, for programming. The students are taught skills like making beds, addressing envelopes, hair braiding and tying ties. In addition to learning essential life skills, they also take part in science and math activities that aim to keep these subjects fun.
“Kids vote with their feet, so if they don’t like what you do, they’re out of there and they’re not coming back,” Newberry says.
The kids in the program are served meals each day, which makes it easier on parents who may have trouble with determining where their kids’ meals are coming from. The totally free program is mainly funded through grants, donations and fundraisers.
Newberry takes pride in the close relationships the Developing K.I.D.S. team has with the students and their families.
“We realize that children have challenges. That some teenagers are acting as adults at early ages. They have stress,” Newberry says. “It needs to be acknowledged that they have troubles and how to help them work through them.”
Although today she has four paid staff members and multiple interns from local colleges, Newberry doesn’t pay herself for the work she does with Developing K.I.D.S.
“I look at this like this is my mission, this is my purpose in life,” Newberry says. “If I want to see my mission fulfilled, there’s no way I can pay myself to be able to live and take care of three children.”
After her third year running the program full time without income, she was offered a job at the Don Bosco Hall Community Resource Center in Detroit, allowing her to continue to run Developing K.I.D.S. while supporting her family.
“I’ve had many obstacles along the way, but any time I felt like I wanted to stop, there was a spiritual voice that said, ‘No, that’s not an option for you,’” Newberry says. “I love seeing these kids come in and watching them grow. I love what I do.”