He wears number 59 on the field, but on Tuesday, Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead wasn’t facing an opponent but helping Detroit’s ninth graders at Martin Luther King, Jr. Senior High School on the east side of the city by showing them how they can succeed in life and school by creating a personal culture of success.

To do this, he teamed up with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) for a “Culture of Success” assembly with 350 MLK ninth-graders. The assembly was followed by breakout sessions where students at the Detroit school discussed how to build a strong foundation by creating healthy habits for themselves, choosing their peer teams wisely and reaching out to their support teams such as school staff, community partners, tutors and mentors including the MDDHHS Community School coordinators and Pathways to Potential success coaches for help.

Whitehead is donating his free time on select Tuesdays during football season to help kids in Detroit and make more people aware of the ways to help children and their families tackle obstacles to opportunities that impede success and their long term self-sufficiency. These school programs touch on health, fitness and staying/succeeding in school.


Physical fitness, nutrition and positive behaviors including staying in school, getting regular check-ups, avoiding drugs and alcohol and preventing violence and suicides are key components to developing healthy student lifestyles.

“I want to share my experience with students to help them begin their high school years with the best possible game plan for success from how you take care of yourself to how to pick your team and stay in school,” said Whitehead. “My background is similar to many of these students – if my story can help them to overcome obstacles and set themselves up for success in school and life then it’s my way of paying it forward.”

MLK is one of six community schools in Detroit that are partnered with MDHHS. The other schools are Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School, Fisher Magnet Upper Academy, East English Village Preparatory Academy, Detroit International Academy and Osborne College Preparatory Academy.

A community school model creates a school where parents, teachers and the community work together to support the academic success and healthy development of all students in the school.

“As a community school, we have the current and future success and well-being of MLK students as our primary goal. All the partners, from the school to MDHHS, to parents and community groups, work together to provide the resources needed to propel student success,” said Carol Viventi, MDHHS director of special projects.

MLK and MDHHS partnered with Tahir Whitehead and three community partners on this program: The Center for Urban Youth and Family Development, St. John Providence and its School Based Health Center and the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department/ Coleman Young Recreation Center.

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