Friday, March 22nd a group of over 40 staff and students traveled down to Detroit, MI from Mount Pleasant, MI. Some people left with hesitations and others were excited to back by home. For some this was their first time going to Detroit while others could get us around the city without any hassle. I fall in between the two categories.
Friday afternoon we went to the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. The academy was founded in 2011. Their 10th graders are the first class to have been accepted. The children come to JRLA with a below average reading level and are behind in many subjects. The teachers try to catch the children up by cramming two years of learning into one. They can accomplish this by extending the school days and year. The kids start school at 9 am and go until 4:30 in the evening. The students attend a leadership class and many of their studies focus on how to better their skills.
Our assignment was to facilitate leadership activities with their 9th and 10th grade class. It was an eye opener for some people. My dad’s school has similar demographics to the academy. Even though I’ve grown up being around a majority of inner city kids, it can get overwhelming at times. There was definitely a difference between how these kids acted compared to my high school class. Something that shocked me was the amount of male students. As I go through my leadership programs there is usually a majority of girls in them. It excited me to know that these boy’s families wanted to see them as strong leaders in the future. The personal development of boys in urban communities usually gets over looked. My group struggled to keep control of the students. They were obviously excited and all had overpowering personalities.
If I got the chance I would go back to the academy to help out. I think these groups would have benefited from being separated into small groups and then put into individual classrooms with the facilitators. That way the students had fewer distractions and the facilitators could have connected better with them.
Saturday we finally got our hands dirty. Well when we left our hands, clothes, faces, hair and lungs were covered in the remains of a house. My group worked on the Georgia Street Community Collective. Two local men decided to make a difference. They’re locals of the street and are sick of having run down houses in their neighborhood. They turned a warehouse into a computer lab and hang out spot of other locals. The computer lab program grew so much that they wanted to expand it across the street. The house needed some serious TLC. We ripped down all of they drywall on the first floor and stairs. There was easily over a ton of debris hauled from the house including drywall, metal scraps and remains from fire damage. Our group worked for just a little over two hours. In that time we put their project ahead of schedule by an entire month. It’s an amazing feeling to know we did so much. A group of about twenty helped a project take a giant step forward.
What do I want to do now? I want to go back. As I was writing this post I looked on their Facebook page. They have an Easter egg hunt this weekend that I would be interested in volunteering at with my family. I’m going to run the idea by my dad and see what happens.
One of the biggest things I’m going to take away from the trip is gratefulness. I’m grateful for the blessed life I’ve been given. Some families have to save up for months to buy the $80 blazer while I bought rain boots that cost more. I’m also grateful for the experiences I’ve gone through. I live in a culturally diverse area. I’ve been able to travel; to go to big cities along with small ones. I have to thank my parents for giving me experiences that broaden my outlook on life.