Over the course of two days, the freshman Leader Advancement Scholar cohort, as well as some upperclassmen and chaperones went on a service trip to Detroit. First on the agenda was facilitating leadership activities at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (a charter school by Central Michigan University). We worked with two groups of students to teach them how they can facilitate to others. It was so insightful to see all of their hopes and dreams after high school, and to know that they believe in themselves just as much as web believe in them. Also, we received a tour of an amazing company called Lowe Campbell Ewald. This company just recently they moved their company location to downtown Detroit to bring more business to the rekindling city. Their location also happened to be connected to Ford Field, which gave our group another amazing opportunity to receive another incredible tour. As well, we attended the Detroit Institute of Arts, which was actually my first time ever being there. The DIA is filled with rich, Detroit culture.That night we spent the night at the Central Michigan University center in downtown Detroit. This means that there was one fairly large space with over 50 people. Yes, this was a gigantic sleepover and I loved every second of it. It is safe to say that this trip was filled with “first times” for me! On our last day we volunteered with Detroit’s Blight Busters, where we helped spread mulch for a large community outdoor area. It was truly an incredible experience over the course of the weekend, and I created memories that I will never forget. You can also get another viewpoint of the trip from CMU News!
Throughout this entire trip, there were so many eye-opening experiences that there is too many to count. However, since I am sitting here writing this blog post, and actually thinking about what meant the most to me I can say that our time at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy really touched my heart. I was in the blue group, and we were given an all freshman girls class to work with. At the beginning of the session no one really wanted to voice their opinion or get involved with the activity a hand. As the time went on, however, the girls realized that they were actually enjoying their time and that we weren’t there to lecture them, but to encourage each student to obtain positive leadership qualities. Being able to witness to drastic change that occurred in such a short amount of time just comes to show how big of an impact can be made by just the smallest gestures. Also, I come from a very rural hometown, so it was awesome to have conversations with the students to understand what it is like to go to school in such an urban environment. Not only did the JRLA students teach me how to be a more influential facilitator, but they taught me that anything is possible. All of them had such bright futures and believed in themselves with zero hesitation when saying they were going to attend college. It made me realize that no matter where you come from, you can accomplish anything.
When thinking about the trip as a whole, one specific leadership example comes to mind. While working with Detroit’s Blight Busters, I noticed one little girl, around the age of 8 that was there without a parent. One of the guys named “D” that works there (age 20), told my friends and I that she has been coming to Blight Busters everyday for over a year now. No one knows where she lives, just that she walks there everyday on her own, ready to make a difference. I decided to get information myself from her, so I put down my shovel and went over to where she was working. I introduced myself and she gave me her name back. I then asked her how she got involved with this organization. She then explained to me that about a year ago her and her friends were hanging out at the park that Blight Busters was doing service at. Her friends dared her to ask them what they were doing, and she followed through with that dare.
The answer that she got from them was “Here, grab this shovel and you’ll find out”. She never stopped from there, and now it is her job. She doesn’t have her parents telling her to come everyday, she puts in her time because she wants to and she believes in with Blight Busters is doing. I’ve learned that the people living within areas that are having issues do not want to leave the problem, that want to resolve the problem; and that is exactly what this little girl is doing. She is being a leader in the most “natural” way. At such a young age she is taking the initiative to make a change in the world. From the words of Blight Busters, “Think globally and act locally”. She is also the perfect example of someone being a servant leader! I am relating her to the theory of servant leadership because not only is she physically trying to rebuild a community, but she is helping others grow in their leadership journeys, as well. Plus, while she is working with Blight Busters, she is teaching volunteers, such as myself, how to be more aware of what issues are occurring and how to create awareness to the problems. Even as a girl of small stature, she is teaching young adults about the showing the importance of stewardship and conceptualization. This girl is there to benefit her community, and turn it around for the better. She is in attendance everyday, giving the other workers, who are obviously older, the feeling of how important there work is and to not take any job lighter than another. Every amount of volunteer work is vital and will create a better living environment for the people of Detroit. Here is the promo Video for our work with Blight Busters!
I have always been amazed by the city of Detroit. Growing up, i visited Detroit for Tigers, Lions, and Red Wings games, or the Lion King Show. I look at Campus Martius Park and see a city filled with so much enthusiasm for the holidays. Or even the beautiful scenery when driving to the Detroit Airport. All of these are extraordinary things about Detroit, but my parents never took me to the parts where there are the big issues or where work is needed to be done the most at. I now see that Detroit has the capability of becoming a city full of life again, and the crime scene will slowly deteriorate. It just takes the people within the community to believe in a positive change and a difference in the city will occur. When you go down to the area of GreekTown it looks oh’so picture perfect, but if you go on the outskirts, people have just pushed the problems away. All of Detroit could be brought back to life if people would stop ignoring the issues, and pushing the “hard to deal with stuff” on the outside.The phrase “you are only as strong as your weakest link” comes to mind when thinking about Detroit. So all in all, my opinion of Detroit has not changed because I see it as a beautiful and empowering city, but now I realize that there is much work to me done.
Now that this service trip is done, I need to take what I have learned and use it again in the real world on my own. This experience has taught me that it doesn’t take someone superior to me to give me the opportunity to make a difference. If I want to make a change in this world I need to make the initiative. I know that I have the strive and passion to make a difference, and I have now come to the realization that I want to be apart of the change happening currently in Detroit. Also, I am an Integrative Public Relations major, which gives me the ability to go down the non-profit road. The more I do, the more I realize how much I enjoy being involved in things that make a positive change in peoples’ lives. This life fulfilling goal can be done by working for a non-profit. To me, life is about helping others. I know that is very broad and cliche, but there really is not another way to put it. It is just so simple of a task to complete. If everyone made these simple gestures in life, it will equal to a larger change in today’s society. Also, I realized that the Leadership Institute to make a difference in other areas than just Central Michigan University’s campus. The Institute is comprised of great leaders that have the ability to make such a powerful impact in this world. Leaders make ideas become a reality, and that reality all started with a service trip to Detroit.