After what seems to have been the fastest 30 hours of my life, my LAS cohort and I have arrived back at CMU from our service trip to Detroit. My expectations of this trip were greatly exceeded, and I’m back feeling very grateful for the experience.
On Friday, February 10th, my LAS cohort and I departed from the Leadership Institute at 11 o’clock A.M. en route to Detroit for a weekend of bonding and service. After a lively, music-filled ride to the D, our bus dropped us off at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, where my cohort and I facilitated leadership initiatives with groups of high school juniors and seniors. Students at Jalen Rose learn with leadership principles integrated with their coursework, and the importance of obtaining a higher education is stressed greatly. Though our time spent with the students at Jalen Rose was limited, I feel as though both cohorts benefitted from each other immensely. My small group was full of knowledgable and motivated students. They were engaging in the activities and really trying to make the most of the experience, just as my fellow facilitators and I were. When we reflected on the day, we discussed the importance of teamwork and communication. It was wonderful to hear their positive responses and to watch them open up as time progressed.
Facilitating at Jalen Rose solidified the importance of building a strong foundation for leadership in the minds of young people. The students at Jalen Rose have some of the top resources at hand to build their leadership skills, and that is something that most other kids do not receive. As someone who wants to work with children when I am older, I believe it is vital that kids learn their potentials and get the tools they need to succeed in life. The students at Jalen Rose know they have the capability to change the world, and that is something I want more young people to understand.
I want to inspire others to believe in their own potential and be a force of great change.
After leaving Jalen Rose, our next destination was the Quicken Loans headquarters. As we walked around the building, we couldn’t help but notice how everything was colorful and vibrant. I wasn’t quite sure of why we were there (besides to eat dinner), but when we walked in the conference room, the company’s Vice President of Strategy, John Fikaney, began speaking about why we should all apply for summer internships at Quicken Loans. I first thought this was just a way to spread the word about their company, but John’s speech was more than just a sales pitch. The room was quiet and attentive as he discussed why Quicken Loans is such a special place to work. The passion we could sense in his words was genuine, but it was the way he spoke of the city of Detroit that inspired me most. I learned from John that Quicken Loans has been working relentlessly to improve conditions within the city, and it’s working. We toured around the building and you could see it everywhere: this company thrives off of passion, and that’s why they keep things interesting with the layout, the way they perform tasks, and the way they care for the city of Detroit. They are creating jobs and making Detroit a more welcoming place for people to work.
John’s speech inspired me to take my passions and run with them… And it was very refreshing to have a real-world example right in front of me to depict the importance of that. It made me consider my own passions. I care deeply about many things, but what are the “skyscrapers” I am going to build in my own “Detroit” (meaning, what big impact am I going to make on the things I’m passionate about)? This is something I will be continually working on as time progresses, but I know to keep it in my mind always. I want to make great change in the things I am passionate about, and this has inspired me to keep my focus on them.
After our impactful experience at Quicken Loans, we headed over to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Having gone there before, I was excited to get a new experience from it with my LAS friends. Art museums are a neat thing because you can quite literally get lost in all the beauty, and even if you’ve been to the same museum before, you can get a unique experience every time. As we ventured around the building, I kept thinking about how each one of us could look at the same piece and interpret it in all different ways. And even though I’m no art aficionado, I still appreciate the history behind everything and try to find beauty in it all.
The final stop of the night was the Outdoor Adventure Center. There, we were given some time to explore the facilities before turning in for bed in one of the open conference rooms. The space I’m speaking of is a remake of nature, with an actual waterfall and other interactive elements that make learning about nature fun. When we were done exploring, we sat down and debriefed the day in small groups. It was a great discussion- we expressed our thoughts on the city of Detroit and how with passion and drive, people can defy the odds. After our debrief, my favorite part of the trip took place: my cohort and I sat in a circle and discussed our passions. Each of us had time to share our passions and what we need to help us achieve our goals. It was a great bonding experience, and after that, I feel much more connected to all of them. I also had a conversation with friends about racial inequality, which was a very insightful and educational discussion. It has been quite a long time since I’ve had conversations with such substance. I went to bed very happy (and at a very late hour) that night.
The next morning, we left the Outdoor Adventure Center bright and early at 8 o’clock. My cohort and I arrived at Cass Community Social Services to serve the community and learn more about the efforts in Detroit. We broke out into four groups, and each one was given its own task for the day. My team was assigned the job of making doormats made out of illegally dumped tires. I never knew how common it was to dump tires, but because there are so many open spaces in the city, people use them as junkyards. After learning the patterns for the mats, my friend Thomas and I made two of them. The color schemes and size of the tire pieces had to be precise in order for it to lay flat and look nice. The workers at Cass are passionate about the work they do and care about the homeless in Detroit greatly. It was a very rewarding few hours, and I was glad to feel like I helped make a difference.
As our time at Cass was coming to an end, so was the trip as a whole. We packed into the bus and began the two and a half hour drive back to Mount Pleasant. On the ride back, I couldn’t help but already reflect on the impact this trip made on me. LAS in the D was one of the most worthwhile experiences for me because not only did I serve and learn about the city that I love, but I also got to bond with my favorite group of people. The residents of Detroit have big plans for the city’s future, and I am so excited to witness positive change take place within my lifetime. Detroit truly deserves better recognition of the progression taking place, because someday soon, this city will shock the world. The negative stereotypes the city can be rejected if one actually understands its true conditions, just as many of my friends who had never been there before learned. The spirit you can feel in Detroit is something remarkable; I feel inspired by the people we encountered to develop my passions and work as hard as I can to achieve my goals. I’ve learned that with hard work, even the largest of feats can be conquered.
In my eyes, the overall theme of this service trip was passion. We encountered multiple people with different passions but found that they encompass the same persistence. The passion to create a world better and the ability to go out and do so is in each and every one of us, and I am anticipating much pogress to be made in the future. I want to make a positive impact on my community in a way that inspires others to do so as well.
A 30 hour trip may not seem like enough time to impact someone, but I can sincerely say that I have changed some of my perspectives after this trip. The people of Detroit are passionate about the work they do for their city, and it motivates me to want more, to work for more, and to serve more for my community. Through my time at CMU and especially during this trip, I have been learning the importance of active citizenship. If I want change to be made, I can’t wait for others to do it for me. I have big dreams just as the people of Detroit do, and I know I have the ability to achieve them. Persistence, though… That’s what will make the difference.