In the first weekend in April, my LAS cohort and I hopped on a charter bus and ventured on a 2 hour bus ride to Detroit, Michigan for a service trip. Before the trip, we did a little brainstorming on the stereotypes of Detroit and how they affect the lives of people everyday.
On Friday morning, we started our day at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. Here, we were assigned a group made up of four LAS students, three JRLA students, and a member of the LAS in the D lead team. Going in, I had to keep an open mind about what the students would be like and how they would react to a group of strangers coming into their school to facilitate leadership activities. We got the energy flowing with an energizer activity and made up a chant as a group. The students were a little weary but we continued to keep our morale high.
We then broke off within our groups into different rooms to begin the service projects. It felt good knowing that we were making a difference in someone’s day by writing cards to veterans, the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, and learning about Ok2Say. In the midst of these activities, I got to know each of the Jalen Rose students in my group. When it came to conversation, at times it was tough to get the ball rolling. After a few service sessions and more chatting, our group seemed to connect.
I honestly had no idea what to expect from them – all I knew was that they are most likely less fortunate than me and have significantly less opportunity than I do. It was so intriguing to hear what their lives are like at home and their view on school. No matter how much they have, each student’s end goal was to go to college. Getting a good education is of utmost importance to them, and that’s something that more privileged people take for granted. It made me step back and realize what I’m doing when I’m complaining about homework or being homesick. Having homework or being homesick means that I am fortunate enough to be going to a public university that costs $20,000+ a year, and that is NOT something I should be complaining about. What did surprise me was that a lot of these students have plans to attend Big Ten schools after graduation which was extremely eye opening. My stereotype of Detroit was in full effect and the fact that some students had been accepted into universities put me in my place.
After our day at Jalen Rose, we filled our very hungry bellies with delicious Chicago-style pizza from PizzaPapalis in Greektown. From there we explored the Detroit Institute of Arts, then spent the night adventuring, debriefing, and getting very little sleep at the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center. I had a blast running around the facility and just having some pure childish fun with some of my closest friends. I love trips when our cohort is happily “forced” to be in one room together because it calls for some major bonding and laughs.
Our Saturday consisted of community service at CASS Community Social Services, a nonprofit agency that works to provide programs for food, health, housing, and jobs. What is unique about CASS is that they hire and create jobs for people with barriers to employment (such as developmental disabilities or having no place to call home). Our cohort was split into three groups with different tasks: a soup kitchen, mat making, and paper shredding. I had the opportunity of making mats out of old tires that have been illegally dumped on the side of the road. It took some skill and pattern-following ability in order to make these mats which was very unique! The worker who oversaw our work was extremely humbling and grateful that we were there. He was the tangible evidence that we needed to ensure our work was very appreciated.
“This is a moment, and I will remember this moment forever.”
Overall, this trip reminded me how important giving back is. It taught me to never expect anything, to always “willow”, and to see perspective into the minds of those around you. I have a growing curiosity for the city of Detroit and have no doubt that I will be back as soon as I can.