Just say yes: Julia Richie makes a difference on campus and in the community

October 3, 2016

Julia Richie
If you have taken graduate courses, you know that it can be challenging to strike a work-life balance. Imagine leading a nonprofit organization full-time and attending graduate school. At 69, Julia Richie, founder and president of The YES Foundation and a UM-Dearborn graduate student, has successfully navigated personal and professional spheres while making a difference on campus and in the community.

A Harlem, New York, native, Richie and her daughters moved to the Metro Detroit area with her husband for his career more than 30 years ago. She wanted to get involved in the community. And she began to volunteer at local youth nonprofit organizations.

In 1992, Richie established The YES Foundation, a Bingham Farms-based nonprofit dedicated to empowering children to become self-sufficient adults and contributing members of society. “I had a vision to make a difference in the lives of young people,” Richie said.

For nearly 15 years, Richie has partnered with UM-Dearborn’s College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters, faculty and students to support middle-school students enrolled in The YES Foundation’s YES for PREP program, an initiative that prepares students to enter and be successful at top college preparatory high schools, and positions them for entry into competitive colleges and universities.

The students who participate in the YES for PREP program meet weekly in CASL classrooms on Saturdays throughout the school year and for seven weeks throughout the summers after 7th and 8th grades.  UM-Dearborn graduate school education majors are among the instructors that Richie recruits to teach English, algebra and other academic subjects in the PREP Program.

According to Richie, YES for PREP alums all have matriculated to college—and 23 percent of more than 100 students gained acceptance to University of Michigan. Students have also gained acceptance to other top universities and colleges like Harvard, Georgetown, Yale and Stanford.

Richie said her ambition to earn a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) degree from UM-Dearborn was driven by her desire to enhance her work with The YES Foundation.

“As I became more entrenched in The YES Foundation, I wanted a master’s degree,” said Richie, who earned her B.S. in 1971 and worked in accounting and real estate before starting The YES Foundation. “I wanted to learn about current theories and methodologies for operating non-profit organizations, so I sought advice from UM-Dearborn M.P.A. Professor Seth Hirshon on making the transition into graduate school after a nearly 30-year break in my education.”

She earned her M.P.A in 2011.

During her time at UM-Dearborn, Richie’s campus and community service contributions have been recognized by the campus community. She was one of 50 UM-Dearborn students selected as a Difference Maker. “UM-Dearborn has afforded me the opportunity to stay in the mix of young teachers who think differently. I get new ideas that inform my work with the organization,” Richie said. “The school has been very supportive and accommodating.”

Richie decided to come back to UM-Dearborn for a second master’s degree because of her commitment to advance opportunities for Metro Detroit youth through her work with The YES Foundation. She’ll graduate in December 2017 with a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the College of Education, Health, and Human Services.

Richie said she plans to continue to be a role model for the youth she serves and to use her UM-Dearborn education to propel the organization forward. “I think the maximization of potential must be preceded by a vision and access to opportunity.”