In celebration of National Roots Day, we are highlighting one of our own—Benita Miller, Executive Director of Powerful Families Powerful Communities NJ!


Detroit Public Schools changed my life from my formative years through high school graduation. I am the second child of teenage parents. Both left Finney High School before completion and along with my older brother, we lived with extended family. Soon, my parents married, completed school and through sheer resolve and a reliance on family and community members, my father secured employment while my mother stayed home with us. They saved and purchased my childhood home on Detroit’s east side by 1972.  


Perhaps one of my favorite places was my preschool classroom at Carstens. The classroom was lined with naptime cots, easels and small tables covered with crayons and books. There was a large bright blue rug for reading and play. I loved the post-lunch story and still get excited for canned pineapple juice and club crackers as an afternoon snack. Although I had been accepted to Whitney Young Middle School, my parents enrolled us in a Catholic school, and I remained there until I entered 9th grade at Southeastern High School. During the 1980s, Detroit was dealing with challenges around drug trafficking and violence, but Southeastern’s staff created a sense of warmth, community and hope that inspired me and most importantly offered a place of safety. We enjoyed all the milestones of high school under that watchful and consistent support of educators deeply invested in my future, especially – Mr. Wordlaw (principal), Mr. Smith (counselor) and Mr. Was (Journalism advisor). By junior year, I split my day at Golightly where I enrolled in the Mass Communications program and learned professionalism and media operations from Ann Eskridge and Ken Sands. Thanks to the combined efforts and dedication of my teachers and with special support from Mr. Was, I received a four-year Rosa Parks Scholarship to attend Wayne State University.  I went to law school and now work as a Children’s Advocate focused on child and family well-being.  


During this Giving Season, please help the DPS Foundation to leverage funds and continue to inspire our students like Ms. Miller to achieve success professionally and personally!