Well everyone it has officially taken me a week and a half to even try to find the words to sum up my 3o hour service trip to Detroit. Our trip was packed with many things to do, each giving me many new concepts to try to digest. I could easily write a book about all the amazing things we did and what I learned, but I’m gonna shorten it down to a blog post ;).
After many snacks and jam sessions, our bus arrived at our first destination: Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. Here, we got the chance to interact with the students that teachers picked out as the leaders of their school. We got into smaller groups and got the chance to facilitate activities with them so that we could get to know them and they could get to know us. Then, we broke off into separate rooms and facilitated larger activities where the students were able to learn more about teamwork and communication skills. I loved the atmosphere of my group that we set when writing out our community standards. Our group was very open with each other and we trusted each other and respected what others had to say.
Honestly, my time spent at Jalen Rose was the highlight of the trip for me. The students that were in my group were so happy about all that they learned that one student even asked “When are you guys coming back?” After telling them that it wouldn’t be until the next cohort goes the following year, another student replied with “please hurry.” I really felt like I was impacting these students lives on a deep level and I loved that feeling. As a college student who is pursuing a degree in teaching, working with students is always so fun for me and knowing I am really helping these students makes an even bigger impact on my life. Because this school is located in the heart of Detroit, it really hit me knowing that they don’t get a lot of the experiences that I got in high school due to low funding in their area. To even see the passion that the teachers there had for their job and the love that the students had for their teachers was so powering to me.
After an energetic afternoon, our blood sugar dropped and we arrived at the Quicken Loans building in the center of Campus Martius for some yummy pizza. Honestly, when I first heard we were going to Quicken Loans and having pizza I didn’t really understand how to two really went with each other, but I quickly learned. We had the chance to meet the Vice President of Strategy at Quicken Loans, John Fikany, who took time out of his weekend to come talk to a group of CMU students about how much he loved his job and CMU(did I mention he is a Chippewa alumni?). I have never seen such passion in a person before. I mean this man REALLY loved his job and it really showed. It was the first time that I heard someone actually say that they took a job at a company because of the companies why statement. Being able to hear someone speak so passionately about their job, got me really fired up to be in the teaching world and spreading my passion around to all my future students because I know that when people see how passionate you are, they get passionate too. After hearing John’s speech, we got to see the action come to life when taking a tour of the Quicken Loans building and really seeing why they are ranked the #5 place to work in the world.
After being surrounded by so many people, it was perfect timing that we made a stop at the DIA. I had gone to the DIA a couple of times before this trip and loved every single experience there. I find it such a great time to just reflect and not really think about what is going on around you and just soak up the amazing art. During this time, I walked around the exhibits with my roommate Sophie and we just reflected on what we had already experienced, but we also walked in silence sometimes just to let each other focus on how we were feeling.
Finally, to conclude the day, it was time for some real fun; the run around a huge adventure center and be a 5-year-old kind of fun. For those of you who think that sounds like fun, I would definitely recommend checking out the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center. It is owned by a woman whose son is in LAS and she has such a heart for this place and has been working on it since the beginning. We got the chance to hear all about how it came to be and how it has taught so many people about the wonderful northern Michigan. We even got the chance to play for about 30 minutes and it felt so good to be a kid again.
After getting a whopping 3 hours of sleep(which is a whole other story), our group headed to CASS Community Social Services where we got to volunteer in many different areas where help was needed. For those of you who don’t know, CASS is a great program that hires homeless men and woman to help get them back on their feet and build their resume again. They provide housing for them to live in too which is really great for them. My job while we were there was to sort and organize all the donations that they received and boy was I excited! Organizing is right up my alley. I will say at some parts it got a little frustrating. We were given instructions at one point and then given totally different instructions at a different point which caused us to have to unsort everything and resort it. I felt myself getting a little annoyed and quickly whipped myself back in shape and told myself that I was there to help them and I needed to have a positive attitude and be ok with the change. It was really cool to see the outcome of everything all neat and tidy and I know that we were really helping them out by doing that. I LOVE volunteering and so doing this made me very happy.
“So What”– What did I learn from all this you may ask? I learned so much about passion. If you have the passion and drive to do what you want, you honestly can achieve it as cliché as it sounds. But from everywhere I went from Jalen Rose to Quicken Loans, the teachers and the workers absolutely love what they do because they have such a passion for what they do. The passion that I talked about also has so much impact on leadership. The place where I saw the most leadership was at Jalen Rose with one of the teachers. I touched on it a little earlier but when these students saw this teacher, they would get the biggest smile on their face and would run up to him. Maybe it helps that he was the leadership teacher 😉 But just seeing that and knowing that teacher must be such a positive role model in those students lives in order for them to act that way, really gave me something to look forward to in my future.
If we are talking just generally about Detroit, I learned a lot about how things like Quicken Loans and the Outdoor Adventure Center really changed the heart of Detroit. Hearing about how bringing Quicken Loans into the center of Detroit helped the city SO much was really positive because you can tell that Detroit has worked so hard to bring back many businesses and it is definitely helping them. But Detroit isn’t just about Campus Martius. Yes, it was cool to expereince the really nice part of Detroit, but it still isn’t all like that. To me, hearing about what CASS is doing to help homeless men and women get a job and build a resume just put the biggest smile on my face. I had always wondered if places like that existed and if they didn’t, why? I heard a story about a man who got a job at CASS and is currently taking classes at a community college and is getting ready to transfer over to Oakland University to continue his college careeer: I got goosebumps. I learned how important it is to keep an open mind because you learn so much more when you are willing to hear more than what you want to hear.
“Now what”= And finally we’ve arrived at the big part of this blog post and a big part of what we talked about on the trip and that is “how are we going to take what we learned and apply it to our lives back at CMU or just in the world?” First off, I just want to take back all the passion that I saw not only in a lot of the leaders at the places we visited, but also just the passion that I saw in so many of my cohort members. A lot of my cohort cares so much about Detroit and it was so cool to see so many of them getting so into all the things we were doing and it really motivated me to get more involved in the things I am passionate about like kids and music. This trip also really motivated me to be more of an active leader and push myself to find so many more things to get involved in and maybe even find more ideas to become passionate about.
Before going on this trip, I was really struggling with the idea of “changing the world” because I have never really seen myself to be someone who could do that. After going on this trip and meeting John Fikany, a CMU alumni who is the Vice President of Strategy at one of the top companies in the world, my mind was just blown. Bringing Quicken Loans to Detroit has helped Detroit thrive as a city and knowing that someone who was once at CMU helped make that happen was just so cool. And no, he isn’t “changing the world” but he is working the make parts of the world better and I know I can do that.
I applied those thoughts to what I learned at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. Many teachers who work in areas like Detroit and other rural cities are teachers who don’t want to be there or, they are teachers that are so passionate and want to help those students succeed because they know that all students deserve an equal education. Seeing the teachers at Jalen Rose and knowing that they were so passionate about their jobs and loved what they were doing just really fired me up. Who knows, maybe one day God will call me to teach in an area like Detroit. If that day were to come, I know that I would use what I experienced on this trip and I would inspire and motivate my students to inspire others one day with their passions.
I am so beyond thankful for this trip and my LAS cohort. Life just wouldn’t be the same without it.