On Friday, February 10th, my LAS cohort and a group of volunteers boarded a bus and left Mt. Pleasant headed for Detroit. After a long bus ride, and a good nap for me, we arrived at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy.
Walking into Jalen Rose, I was a little nervous. As I explained in my pre LAS in the D post, I have little experience with the city. Jalen Rose is an intercity school and walking into it was very intimidating for me. My cohort walked into the gym and we had a couple minutes to mess around and prepare ourselves for all the facilitating we were about to do.
Then were split off into our predetermined groups and met with our group of Jalen students. We started with a name game ice breaker but most of the students were very shy and not into playing. At this moment I was very nervous; I was suppose to facilitate theses students all day and none of them seemed to want to be there. At one point, one of the girls in my group said that she was just there for a grade.
Our group left the gym and went to a class room to play a memory game. We had to get “across the lava” by walking a certain path that only one of our leaders knew. This is a grueling game because there is so many options of ways to go and it’s easy to get bored. The Jalen Rose students started playing though and didn’t seem to get frustrated. When the first person made it through the “lava” we all yelled to celebrate. I was really excited though because they all participated and seemed to be opening up to us.
We then played a game of getting a dragons egg to a post through a maze. On our groups first try, we almost made it to the pole so we kept adding more barriers such as one of us carrying an Obama cut out. We tried several times and got really close every time but our group never succeeded. The students were really good sports about it though. They didn’t seem to mind that we never delivered the egg because they had fun.
When all of the groups came back into the gym, we had a large group discussion where anyone could stand up and talk about what they learned. A girl from my group was the first to stand up and reflect on the day. I was so proud of this girl that I had only met a couple hours ago. She was so shy when she came into our group so standing up in front of every one was a huge step for her. It was incredible to see how she felt comfortable enough with us to speak up after only knowing her for a couple hours.
After our large group discussion, LAS loaded up the bus and headed to Quicken Loans. When I first heard that we were going to Quicken Loans on our service trip I was very confused. I heard that there were giving us pizza though so I was okay with it. As it turns out, the pizza was delicious but what they had to say to me was more important. Quicken Loans is a mortgage company but they are doing a lot more than giving out out mortgages in Detroit.
First off, if you ever get the chance to go into their building, do it because it’s really cool in there. Their work space is so open and inviting it makes you want a job there even if you’re not at all interesting in mortgages. The walls are full of art and bright colors, it just improves your mood walking through. But when you listen to the employees of Quicken Loans is when you really fall in love with the company. They are so passionate about rebuilding Detroit; it is truly inspiring. They are creating jobs and making Detroit a city that people want to live in again.
After we left Quicken Loans, my LAS cohort got a hour to go and explore the Detroit Institute of Art. I had never been to an art gallery before so it was very interesting. Only having a hour there was a challenge though because there was so much to see and just not enough time.
We then headed to the DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center. This place is incredible and just reminded me of home (northern Michigan). There was a waterfall and tree fort and simulations. My cohort was allowed to be children and run around and play for a while. We just weren’t allowed to go in the waterfall unfortunately.
After we had sufficient time to mess around, we all came back together and had a group debrief of our time at Jalen Rose. This was a really important time for me because there was someone in my group that grew up in Detroit but also people like me that grew up in a very rural area. It was very interesting when we all shared our opinions on the day. Some of us were intimidated by the city and Jalen Rose but others were just excited to share their city with us.
Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early to volunteer. We headed to CASS, a Detroit based agency. We then were split up into four groups: a group to work in the kitchen, a group to sort donations, a group to make mats, and a group to shred.
I was in the shredding group and our factory was placed a couple blocks down the street. Walking through that part of town took a large toll on me. There were houses that were caving in and buildings just abandoned and destroyed. When we finally got to the CASS building it was a relief for me.
The CASS factory blew me away. It is a completely self sufficient building; everything is powered by exercise bikes. They employees of CASS can’t work in their factory in the winter because of the cold weather so we were there to help get the factory up and running for the summer. A couple of girls and I cleaned bathrooms while other people in my group stacked boxes so everything was set for the warmer weather. I even rode the bike to create some electricity but it turns out that creating electricity is hard and I’m out of shape.
I then got the job of shredding paper. It sounds so weird but it was a lot of fun. We had music playing and all of us were working together and we were just having a good time. CASS sells the bundles of shredded paper to support their operations.
CASS is all about fighting poverty and creating poverty like the sign in the factory above said. These are words that will stick in my head for a long time. There mission is something that I support whole heartily. I wish we could of spent more time volunteering there.
So after that incredibly long description of what we did on our service trip to Detroit, I have a couple thoughts:
1.) A couple hours with someone can make a huge impact. Maybe this is you going through silly activities or just showing that it is okay to open up and making someone feel like they can open up to you.
2.) Detroit is and incredible city that is recovering from some hard years. People care about this city but it’s recovery isn’t going to happen over night. Detroit is making a come back and it is because of companies like Quicken Loans, agencies like CASS, and just people who want to help.
LAS in the D opened my eyes to an incredible place that I had been to intimidated to explore before. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I was presented with to take this trip.