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Lansing's Mikey 23 Foundation teaches youth skilled trades while giving back to community

Myracle Sparkman holding two pieces of plywood outside of a house still under construction
Megan Schellong
19-year-old Myracle Sparkman joined the Mikey 23 Foundation in February 2022. She poses with two wooden planks on a South Rundle Street house porch on June 16, 2022.

A Lansing organization that evolved out of tragedy is working to empower young people to give back to their community by teaching them skilled trades.

Michael McKissic poses outside of the house that's under construction at their South Rundle Street location on June 16, 2022.
Megan Schellong
Michael McKissic poses outside of the house that's under construction at their South Rundle Street location on June 16, 2022.

Since 2015, the Mikey 23 Foundation has been helping younger community members learn everything about construction from installing windows and doors to pouring concrete and installing electrical, plumbing and air conditioning. Participants are currently working on remodeling two houses.

Michael McKissic started the foundation in his son's name days after Mikey died.

He was shot and killed as a party was letting out on Elm Street in Lansing. The perpetrator was never found.

Corey Morris is one of McKissic’s kids. He also helps out with the foundation.

Morris said being a part of Mikey 23 has helped him cope with the loss of his brother.

"Since the beginning, I've been involved. It's my little brother, you know, always want his legacy to live on, even if it has to be this way," Morris said.

What we try to teach our youth and young adults is instead of picking up a gun to commit gun violence, pick up a hammer and build up your community
Michael McKissic, Mikey 23 Foundation

McKissic said while his son, Mikey, never had any kids, he sees the foundation’s participants as family.

“I say these are Mikey's kids.”

McKissic’s goal is to teach young people valuable skills while also keeping them away from gun violence.

"Kids are like a garden, right? If you don't take care of that garden, the weeds will take over. And so, to get rid of the weeds, we need a lot of Mikey 23 Foundations, so that we don’t let the weeds, which is the streets, take over," McKissic said.

19-year-old Myracle Sparkman is one of the members of the foundation’s apprentice program.

Sparkman joined in February of 2022 after hearing about it from her sister.

Since she was planning to go to school for construction, she says the foundation was a perfect fit for her.

"Yeah, it was kind of meant to be so I'm like, yeah, I'm glad I'm here. It's a great environment. I just love being here," Sparkman said.

She remembers working on a house that was destroyed by a fire.

"That's like my favorite one. Because it's like when you walk in there, it’s all burnt. And then when we fix it up, most of the time it looks like brand new. Like it never was burnt before," she said.

Sparkman said throughout the construction process, she’s learned to be a better communicator, and that’s a skill that’s also helped her with her side gig of DJing.

"I don't like to talk to people at all. So, it helps me when he brings people like you and the interviewers. It helps me like talk more to people because I'm also a DJ," she said.

Rico Stewart poses outside of the South Rundle Street house in front of the Mikey 23 Foundation sign on June 16, 2022.
Megan Schellong
Rico Stewart poses outside of the South Rundle Street house in front of a Mikey 23 Foundation sign on June 16, 2022.

Another member, 32-year-old Rico Stewart, said the foundation has given him more than just technical skills.

"I was homeless, living out of my car. Now, I got a house, a car. You know, my life changed since I've been working with Mikey 23," he said.

Stewart said McKissic has made him feel like Mikey 23 is home.

"Him and his wife basically took me in. My mom passed when I was 21, so they kind of like, you know, it's hard to fill that void, but they try," Stewart said.

For now, the team is working together to restore a house on South Rundle Street in Lansing.

After construction wraps up this winter, the house will go on the market, and McKissic hopes it will keep serving as a reminder of what Mikey’s legacy has been able to accomplish.

Megan Schellong hosted and produced Morning Edition on WKAR from 2021 to 2024.
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