We packed up for the weekend after weeks of preparation, got on a big bus and went on
our way to Detroit for the weekend. The weekend would be packed full of service, learning, and FUN. My Leader Advancement Scholar Cohort and I were so excited to go to Detroit and serve the community. When we got to Detroit, our first stop was at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA). There, we facilitated different leadership activities and taught the students how to facilitate in the future. Next, we toured the Lowe Campbell Ewald building and the Ford Field Stadium. After that, we went to a local pizza joint and ate some delicious food. Then, we went to the Detroit Institute of Arts to browse artwork for a while, and our final stop for the night was the CMU office located in downtown Detroit. So, yes, that means all 50 of us had to sleep there, on the floor of the office. But hey, at least it was carpeted! We got up early the next morning and drove a few minutes to the Motor City Bight Busters headquarters. After we got a brief history of the group, we helped them out by spreading large piles of mulch around a field, in preparation of what would later be a farming field. After that, we were on our way home.
The most eye opening part of the trip for me was the huge dynamic change in the different parts of Detroit we were in. When we were in JRLA, the power went out twice. This is an actual school we were in, and in my experience, unless there was a big storm or catastrophe, the power never went out in my school. This was surprising to me and the rest of my cohort, not only because it happened while we were there, but that the students said the power goes out at least once a week at their school. That blew my mind! A school so tight on money that supplying the whole school with electricity was so hard. Later on during the day, though, we visited Lowe Campbell Ewald, and boy was that a dynamic change from JRLA. The building was just elaborately and magnificently designed. I don’t remember the exact digits, but the amount of money that went into building and supplying that building with electricity everyday was absolutely astounding. Thousands a day. Also, the amount of money that went into building Ford Field and the amount that people are willing to spend to get a good seat for a game was also mind blowing.
Honestly, this really irked and upset me. The people in Lowe Campbell Ewald are just rolling in money, spending nearly as much as my college tuition a day on running their building, and the students of JLRA (not even 20 miles apart) can’t go a week of school
without a power outage. There is absolutely no doubt that there is something wrong in this picture. I guess this part just really changed my perspective on a lot of things. As a society, we are so materialistic and put so much focus on monetary value that we are just oblivious to the fact that some people in the same county as us are struggling for something guaranteed for us: electricity.
The founder of the Motor City Blight Busters really stood out to me as a leader during this trip. He told us the story of how he was trying to raise his family in a bad part of Detroit. One day, he got sick of it and did something. He started making the neighborhood a better, friendlier place. He didn’t stop there though, because now, the Blight Busters reach out to many areas of Detroit with the help of a wide variety of volunteers. The organization strives to turn Detroit around, and make living environments available more suitable. I think this is a perfect example of Servant Leadership. The Blight Busters founder really works hard for his organization and puts in the work necessary to get jobs done, all while organizing volunteers to come and help out.
After this trip, my outlook on Detroit has changed a little. I guess now, I am just more aware of how things actually are in Detroit, but I do know that there is hope, and things are definitely getting better in that City. With the Motor City Blight Busters creating farmland and cleaning up houses, and the promising students of JRLA learning about leadership and thinking about college, I know that Detroit is already improving. Soon, I hope that Detroit wont be associated with the word “ghetto” and that people will think highly of the city.
The most important thing this trip has taught me is really how important service work is. Like I said, I have done volunteer work before, but my experience was limited to making blankets, or packing lunches for students. I have never really gone out of my own city to do any type of service work, and I am so glad that I got this experience. Even though what we did (shoveling piles of mulch) may have seemed like a small effort, I don’t think many of my cohort members realized what a big difference that made for the Blight Busters. A little really can go a long way with volunteer work. After this trip, I plan to increase the amount of service work I do, and to take up any opportunity to serve my community. I am also so much more aware of the situation in Detroit. After seeing the completely different environments between JLRA and the Lowe Campbell Ewald building, it just made me realize how much monetary things aren’t necessary, contrary to what we are programmed to think. I really don’t want to live my life measuring my life’s success on the amount of money I make, when there are so many people who would love to have half of what I have already. This trip just really opened my eyes to the things that really matter, and I really think that I will have a different outlook on life afterward. I am so grateful that I got to go on this trip because it opened my eyes so much, and I got to spend a great time and build so many memories with the people I love.