Who We Are
At Behailu, we aim to prepare urban youth to become active members of society in an environment that encourages creativity, builds confidence and character, promotes healthy decision making, and fosters a sense of personal and social responsibility. At Behailu, teens are engaged in the arts, receive academic support, and participate in community service projects that focus on building positive relationships and developing the necessary skills for success beyond high school graduation. Students are exposed to and mentored in high quality arts instruction that encourages them to find their voice as individuals and community members and promotes personal growth and civic involvement.
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In December 2006 Deedee Mills started mentoring a 12-year-old boy in the Charlotte community after meeting him at a local charity Christmas event. Due to his family dynamics and various circumstances, the boy was in and out of homes, joined a gang and dropped out of school.
“I’m such a believer in sports bringing at risk kids out of situations and onto an even playing field, but what happens if the kid isn’t an athlete?”
After 17 years with the Carolina Panthers, Deedee decided she needed to answer that question. So, falling back on her love and appreciation for the arts, the Behailu Academy was born.
“I feel like if he had been given the opportunity to experience a place like the Behailu Academy, we would be packing him up to go to college instead of worrying about where his next meal is coming from. I can’t let that happen to another kid.”
Lori Krzeszewski, Executive Director
Lori has been working in urban schools and communities in Charlotte since 2002. After receiving her M.A.T. in elementary education from the University of Pittsburgh, she accepted a teaching job with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. She left the classroom after six years of teaching to pursue a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on urban education. She has spent time teaching and doing research in Cambodia, as well as at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College. Lori has extensive experience working in school and community based programs in the U.S. and abroad. She is passionate about supporting students’ creative experiences and believes education is essential to personal empowerment and social transformation.