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People lack hope – but the things that happen when they can dream and believe in themselves is like magic.
Being born and raised on the East side of Detroit by a single mother without a Father figure is a life a lot of men in Keith Bennett’s Flip the Script program can relate to. His mother was strong and did her best to make ends meet for the family, but most importantly, she showed Keith that with hard work and love, you can live a life to be proud of.
While attending Mackenzie High School in Detroit, Keith was a great athlete. Unfortunately, he fell short in his academics and was kicked out of school, leading him down an unstable path. Men in the community and school leadership noticed his potential and helped him graduate through Cass Tech High School night classes, where he earned his diploma the following year. Keith is eternally thankful to the men who stepped up to give him support when he so desperately needed, so he lives to have the same impact on men and women’s lives today. Through his journey he has learned a lot and has transformed in many ways, but one thing that has stayed the same is his passion to help young men and women.
Keith was a college basketball coach for eight years with Lincoln Community College, San Diego State and Jordan College in Detroit. One thing he loved more than the game was the players he coached, and seeing them evolve and transform into players and men with high potential. Given his commitment to coaching and mentoring, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Keith wanted to become a warden for correctional facilities. Unfortunately, he was turned away because his idea of introducing compassion into corrections wasn’t embraced by the system. That did not deter him from his dream, and he set off to create a program that would allow his approach.
Before joining Goodwill, Keith started Common Wealth, a women’s program that works to transition women and their families out of foster care, and served as program director for more than 10 years. In April of 2003, Keith joined Goodwill with the hope of making a difference, and ultimately created the Flip the Script program where he now serves as Program Director. Flip the Script is a self-empowerment program designed to put Wayne County’s at-risk men and women to work by breaking down employment barriers. In 2016, 1,306 individuals were enrolled in Flip the Script and 125 entered GED preparations. Of the individuals in the program, 28 obtained an occupational license, 27 earned an industry-recognized certification and 431 were placed in competitive employment.
Keith created Flip the Script around his belief that if you give people their dignity and ability to believe in themselves, it does something magical.
“People will change when they start to believe in themselves, I don’t think the work is as hard as we have made it,” Keith said. “People lack hope – but the things that happen when they can dream and believe in themselves is like magic. It leaves me in tears because that can transform people.”
From the beginning, Keith was never interested in being a manager or director, he just wanted to make a difference and knew the program could be great if it was centered on love and people, not numbers and data. When the men of his program see him, you’ll rarely hear them refer to him as Keith or Mr. Bennett, but instead as the governor or the Godfather. Just as he wished, he is viewed as the men’s father figure and mentor and is able to serve in that capacity from the experiences he learned through life in the urban community, not from a past profession.
“It was life that gave me the experience I needed to help these men” Keith continued. “Young men and women in the urban community, whether you’re black, white or brown, presents its challenges. I’m able to relate to that from my lack of having a father, and feeling that love.”
Keith still has a lot to give and looks forward to seeing the hope in the eyes of those in the program every day. As he always dreamt, his name holds a legacy he did not know he had. One of his proudest moments was when his son promised he would live up to his name. Taking a page from his mother’s book, Keith is tough to work for and will not let anyone off easy, but he will never give up. His hope for the Flip the Script program is that is lives long after he is gone, and he will continue to put in the work to ensure that happens.
A member of multiple boards, including serving on the community workforce development board with JP Morgan and Chase, Keith travels around the country to speak at multiple prisons. In his free time, he enjoys bowling and attending summer outdoor concerts for a wide range of music genres, including Jazz, old R&B, Rock, Gospel and even some Country.