Give Back : : I’m Home!

After a uplifting morning with the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, our cohort found this building across Grand Blvd and decided we should model while covered in dust and soot from our demolition, moments earlier.

Where to start… Wow.

As someone who is very familiar with the city, I noticed that it’s every aspect becomes overwhelmingly more stunning when you’re surrounded by people experiencing it for the first time. I always thought it was magical, but watching the magic be recognized by those who thought they’d “hate city life” was something else.

My LAS Class continuously impresses and inspires me.  Our first stahp was at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy.  We had the opportunity to facilitate a leadership workshop with students from this charter school in Detroit, and the results were fantastic.  Our program consisted of a name game, collaboratively defining “leadership,” and a team building activity, known as “gutterball.”  These students were driven to break the stigma that comes with graduating from schools in Detroit.  Not only that, but they were driven to be leaders; inside the classroom for now, and outside when their time comes.  Throughout our workshop, it was evident that these students cared about making a difference in their own lives; this was awe-inspiring. We had time afterwards to discuss post-highschool plans with these students. All of them plan on attending a major university, to study medicine, communications, aerospace engineering, and more.

Afterwards, we met with a few of the staff members at Jalen Rose, including a teacher and the principal.  These faculty live and bleed for their students.  They pull out all the stops when it comes to direction and education, because they truly do not want their students to become just any other citizen, but to become leaders.  In order to instill direction in the lives of their students, the faculty has set high standards and strict guidelines.  The school follows a uniform dress code that is so specific, even a incorrectly colored belt can earn a student a demerit.  This is only one of many and seemingly petty misconducts that can get a scholar at Jalen Rose sent to the principal’s office.  These tight rules seem too strict and unnecessary on paper, but it’s just the kind of guidance that the students need. Overall, my experience with the Jalen Rose academy was incredible.  I saw a school system very different than the one in which I learned, worked with some incredibly impressive students, and spent quality time with my LAS cohort.

Following our Leadership Workshop with the students of Jalen Rose, our cohort took a group photo!

Following JRLA, we shot over to Greektown for some Pizza Papalis.  Needless to say, we ate REAL good.  Following our delicious dinner, we had the opportunity to explore the Detroit Institute of the Arts.  I have been on countless field trips to the DIA, and each time, I am overwhelmed.  The DIA is incredible, full of treasures, and always buzzing with fun and interesting people.  This time, there was a life performance by a band that fused classical string music with nature sounds, including birds chirping, rivers flowing, and the authentic sounds produced by cactus plucking.  Needless to say, I enjoyed myself throughly.  Plus, it was cool to be around my cohort during this time, because for a lot of them, it was their first time even hearing about the DIA.  It was nice watching them discover another absolute gem hidden in Detroit.

That night, we stayed in a CMU office building that was located right in Campus Martius.  Sleeping on the floor of an office building is really hard to complain about when you’re surrounded by the most wonderful people.

The next morning, we worked alongside the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative to demolish a run down house in a neighborhood of Detroit, in order to make room for new possibilities.  This expedition was not only fun to participate in; but furthermore, made me feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy inside, because we were helping out the city.  I spent the majority of my time pulling long planks of wood out of filled trash bags, in order to tie them shut and place them along the curb.

Our professor, Jesi, gave us this word of advice before we left for the trip: “Be a willow tree. Just go with the flow.”  This came in handy the moment a fire truck, alarms sounding, pulled up in front of the house we were demolishing.  Apparently, the Detroit Fire Department was alarmed by our allergy masks, as these made us appear to be dealing with toxins. The fire department wanted us to stahp what we were doing, until someone with the MiUfI explained what we were doing.  I know a handful of people were thrown by this, but I worked through it.  I just kept heaving bags across the street and sorting planks.

I wish we would have been able to spend more time working with MUFI, because we were all in high spirits the entire time, and we had accomplished a lot.  It was nice to do a service project together, and I wish we could coordinate another!

This is my roommate and I, having some fun in between volunteering.

Where do I go from here?  My roommate and I discussed heading back to Detroit for a week long period, staying in the MiUFI Hostel and, without announcing who we are or where we are from, volunteering in the community some more.   The experience sounds thrilling to me, and I am excited to start working out the logistics behind it.  In addition, this trip has fueled my anger that I have failed to register for two Alternative Breaks, now.  I want to serve on an AB so badly, and missed the registration by mere seconds BOTH semesters since coming to CMU.  I am determined to be successful in my next pursuit to register for one!

This trip unveiled to me that I have a passion for urban renewal.  Having grown up in Metro Detroit, I was overly exposed to it’s greatness. I have been defending the city my entire life.  I discovered through this trip that I want to combine my major, Computer Engineering, with service to Detroit.  If I can impact the poorer parts of the city through means of technology, then I finally have a better idea when answering the question, “What do you plan on doing with your life?”

Behind me stands the house we were demolishing. In my right arm is my puppy, Jackson. My parents visited us at the site of the demo with drinks and snacks for everyone. Luckily for me, they brought the puppy along!

A song to accompany this post:

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