I believe in Magic.

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2016 has let me experience the true feelings of love, hard work, loss, compassion, happiness, fear, anxiety, excitement, and the most important — Magic.

This December I got the privilege to volunteer at Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, FL.  The reason I got to experience such a life changing trip is due to CMU’s awesome Alternative Breaks program. What I truly admire Image may contain: 11 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoorabout this program is that students interested in volunteering during one of our school year breaks (weekends, winter, spring, or summer) sign up for a social justice issue they are interested in serving, instead of signing up for a place to attend. Therefore, I got to go on a week long service trip this winter break with 11 amazing women that were also passionate about uplifting families and children.

Volunteering at Give Kids the world for four days truly has made my believe in magic again. When people think of magic we often refer to Harry Potter and fairy tales, but the smiles on the children’s faces showed me the true meaning of magic. Give Kids the World Village is happiest place on earth – it’s a place where children with life threatening illnesses and their families get to experience a week long all paid vacation full of food, fun, and even tickets to all the Disney Parks. 

Though my role during the week seem pretty minimal, I know it made a big difference since this village runs on volunteers. For this amazing place to operate it needs over 2,000 hours of volunteer service, and my group soon realized after arriving how important this service was to the children and families.

Our first dayImage may contain: 1 person, outdoor of service I got to be two roles within the village, “Lori’s Magical Flight Gate Keeper” and one of my favorites, a worker at the Ice Cream Palace. As the Gate Keeper, I learned how to operate a ride where the kids get to ride butterflies, and that is where I met one little girl I will never forget. The details of my experiences with the children are private for respect of the families, but this little one instantly showed me so much love and happiness. Her smile on the rides was truly contagious. Then that night myself and 3 other girls (Lauren, Liz, and Payton:)) worked at the Ice Cream Palace, where we absolutely had so much fun. Starting the night we didn’t know how much fun serving free ice cream to the kids and families would be, but after we made countless of banana splits, sundaes, and shakes we soon learned the true joys of scooping ice cream to all the excited kids. It was such a busy night, since many families were out at the Halloween party, which allowed us to interact with so Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing and indoormany new smiling faces. Every family and children we interacted with during our week of service, and especially at the Ice Cream Palace, were so extremely nice and appreciative. Everyone and anyone that came in could order any crazy request of ice cream, and it was so fun to give a simple joy to the families. One little girl really touched my heart when she told us how volunteering with kids with special needs was a huge part of our life. She told us many stories that truly inspired us. Also one of my favorite moments of the night is when another little girl gave Liz a mask she made at the Halloween party, and then we preceded to make Liz wear it while scoping ice cream. The smile on the little girls face was so memorable.

Our second day of service was the one that impacted my heart the most. Not only was the day of service incredible, the group of strangers I came with from CMU became significantly closer by the second day. That day I worked in the Nancy’s Kitchen as a server in the morning, and at night I helped kids carry their trays while they looked all over the kitchen for yummy food to select. Working in the kitchen I met this family that I will never forget. The patience and love the father had for his daughter overwhelmed me with joy. The conversations I had throughout the week with this family is something I can’t explain. At these times it felt like nothing else mattered, because the conversations I was having seemed so magical and the most important thing happening in the room. It was awesome to listen to the girls stories about visiting the Disney Parks and what she wanted for Christmas. Just thinking about her and her family while typing this puts a smile on my face.

Also on our second day of service I learned about the most magical place within the village (and maybe on earth) – the Castle. The castle is where every wish child gets to create a star, and these stars are way more beautiful than the ones in the real sky. Each wish child gets to decorate their star, and the star fairy Stella willImage may contain: indoor take them up at night and place them on the ceiling of the castle. Then families can return and locate their star made in the past. As I walked into the castle for the first time, I got to see the ceiling glisten with thousands of stars, which made my heart pretty heavy. Give Kids the World Village has been opened for 30 years, and the castle has over 140,000 stars placed on the ceiling by Stella. Though the reality of that is heartbreaking, it is also a happy No automatic alt text available.realization because that’s over 140,000 families that were given magic during undesirable times in their lives. While I was in the castle, a girl was proud to show me around and show me all the magic placed around the castle. After playing for a while I asked if she made a star, and she looks at me with a glow in her face and says, “my sister is the special one, so she got to make a star.” The castle is
the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Up above was full of stars colored differently, some not as happy as others, but the castle shows no matter what you are not alone; the castle ceiling full of stars shows acceptance.

Our last two days of service I worked in the kitchen again both days. Though that doesn’t sound like the most glamorous job I really enjoyed it. Volunteering at Give Kids the World is more about the bigger picture, which is making every aspect of this vacation for these families stress free and full of fun. I actually really enjoyed carrying trays for kids and talking to them one on one! I found light in every single child I interacted with, and I wouldn’t trade it with anything. One little girl ran around the kitchen stamping kissy faces on our hands. So so so many smiles that I will never forget.

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Volunteering at Give Kids the World is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. It’s honestly so hard to describe the experience in words, but one thing I know is that it has touched my heart forever. While volunteering, I interacted with many children, and even though I knew the common factor of why the families were there, I never knew why the child was actually there. Looking at the children, I saw normal, happy children, and I think that speaks volumes. Some of these children were experiencing the worst, and most unpredictable situations, though they still continued to play, love, and laugh hard. A word I used a lot in this post was smile, because the amount of smiles I saw was unbelievable. I can’t imagine the fear and unknown the families we interacted with had, but one thing I know it was so inspiring to see their optimism. Seeing the happiness of the children showed me the true meaning of life, but in my eyes it was even more amazing to see how truly patient, caring, and supportive the parents and siblings were. The love that spread throughout the village was truly incredible to see and experience.

Give Kids the World Village motto is something I will forever live by after this amazing volunteer opportunity …  “where happiness inspires hope”. This will forever remind me that no matter what happens in life, no matter the situations, no matter the heartache life brings you, remember whenever you give happiness hope will be created. I am easily fearful of the littlest things, but after this week at Give Kids the World, I will never take anything for granted again. I learned the true meaning of love, support, and happiness at the village. I can honestly say the children, families, volunteers, and workers at Give Kids the World Village have changed my life

Thank you Give Kids the World Village for reminding me how important happiness, love, and hope in life truly is — and more importantly, thank you for showing me the real meaning of magic.

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My Day in Flint, MI

 

Yesterday I got to be a part of Be My Neighbor Day for Central Michigan University by volunteering in Flint, MI. Be My Neighbor Day is an annual event for CMU, which involves many volunteer opportunities available in the community  of Mount Pleasant. This year they provided an event organized by CMU students to help the community of Flint, MI.

I really enjoy serving others and volunteering, and I have learned about service leadership n my college courses to be able to fully understand the meaning behind service. I loved the opportunity to see the community of Flint and being able to give back. My group volunteered at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. We were able to help the organization pack donated food to send to locations around the area. The food bank services around 330,000 people a year, within 417 agencies, and 22 counties. The Eastern Food Bank of Eastern Michigan is ranked number one in the Nation.

Then the other half of the group volunteered at Catholic Charities, also known as the Center of Hope. Catholic Charities is currently renovating an old school from 1956 into a shelter that will provide many resources for people in need in Flint, MI. They “work with individuals, families, and communities to help them meet heir needs, address their issues, eliminate oppression, and build a just and compassionate society.” They also showed how much they are passionate about hope. The group from the food bank came to Catholic Charities to have lunch with the group, so I took the opportunity to explore the building, help where was needed last minute, and talked to people working there.

I first want to note something before I begin analyzing and debriefing the day: I cherish the moments when I am volunteering. I do not take the experience for granted, and I try to give something every moment I am present. I take the opportunity to learn and not to be selfish; I realize why I am there, and that is to help others. I love the feeling of giving back, and being able to make an impact when I can. I highly enjoy volunteering, but to say the least I was a little disappointed in some people on this service trip.

Flint, MI is an area with high poverty and high rate of homelessness, and to add to all that they are unfortunately experiencing the Flint Water Crisis. It is clear that it’s a community that needs help. Our group represented CMU, and it meant a lot to the Food Bank and Catholic Charities to have us there helping them. Though, I was highly disappointed in some of my fellow Chips’ actions during the service trip.

(Side note: I really enjoyed my self on this trip, and this has nothing to do with the organizations we volunteered at. The two organizations were amazing to welcome us into their facility.)

“When I signed up for this I thought we would be taking Coach Buses, not school buses.”
This was a statement said by a volunteer as we were getting on the bus. People were complaining about the buses we were using, instead of looking forward to trip and opportunity we were given. For me, that was just hard to hear. People expect so much when the point of the trip is not to receive but to give. You can’t volunteer if you are going to do it for the free stuff, or for the title of volunteering. They should have been thankful for being provided transportation to the service site, instead of complaining instantly.

After going to the bathroom during a break at the food bank, a girl said “Oh there is no way I am using this water”. She just used soap to wash her hands, no water.
She did not wash her hands with water because of the Flint Water Crisis, even though we were at a clean facility with clean running water. She placed the stigma on Flint instantly. If the water was contaminated the owners would have stated. The point of the trip was to learn about Flint and break the stigma tied with it. I truly see hope, love, and strength in the community of Flint. People tend not to give it a chance, and instead have a negative attitude.

At Catholic Charities during lunch, some CMU athletes were there and trying to cut in line because “we ran all the way here to not make the front of the line, that’s bullshit! Lets cut because we deserve the first pieces of pizza.” Then they preceded to push their way to the front of the line moaning and groaning about getting food. 
This nudged me the most. We were volunteering at a place that serves people everyday that don’t have food, water, shelter, and clothes. This group of athletes made me truly disappointed in their actions. They spent the whole day volunteering, and I was at the the other location so I am not aware of how they acted during the day, but at the end of the service trip they seemed to not learn anything. They seemed to forget how privileged they are and how so many there would be so grateful to wait in line for a piece of pizza. One of our group leaders waited until every single person ate, and made sure there was plenty extra before she even considered eating. She showed what it means to volunteer. She wanted to donate the extra food to Catholic Services for people in need and for the workers spending their career working for such a good cause. The athletes went back up for seconds and thirds to bring back extra food to their dorms, because apparently they don’t have enough. A part of me feels bad for judging them instantly for their actions during their lunch, but I kept thinking of the families I saw that came to Catholic Charities to try to find food for lunch so they could eat that day.

Playing of loud vulgar music that constantly swore and used the n-word repetitively. 
The time that I was at Catholic Charities a group of CMU boys were playing loud music that was very offensive. It continuously used the n-word, which hurt my heart. Most of the people that needed Catholic Charities could take offensive to the music being played about  the n-word, gangsters, sex, and living in the “ghetto” and the “hood”. It may same like the college norm to play this type of music, but it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. It’s important to censor yourself, and show respect to others; especially during volunteering.

Many did show respect and help make change in the community of Flint. There was many that cared about being there, and was doing it by choice and not force. I was proud to be a part of a huge group of CMU students that came together to help make an impact. It meant a lot to me to be a part of Be My Neighbor Day. I guess it’s just easy for me to get irritated by egocentric attutidues and behaviors. I just wanted to speak up so many times to others, but I held it back due to it wasn’t the right environment to state my personal opinion on service.

I held onto the positive. Regardless of my little annoyed moments, I was so thankful for the opportunity to volunteer in the Flint community. It was my first time in the area, and I loved seeing it. I volunteered with my mentee, and it was a great bonding experience for us. We talked a lot about what we are passionate about, and we both learned how to ignore the ignorance of some and focus on why we where there.

It was crazy to see how much food the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan packaged and gave out, it was cool to be a part of that process for a day. Then it was amazing to see what Catholic Charities was currently doing, and to hear their end dreams and goals. Talking to people that work at Catholic Charities made me realize how many are in need in Flint, MI. It also made me think about working with a non-profit. Many say that non-profit organizations consists of not enough pay with the overtime work, but taking this trip made me realize it’s worth. Working with non-profits like that changes their communities one person and one family at a time. That makes my heart so happy. What Catholic Charities is doing is truly amazing and inspiring. It gave me hope to help others in need, and that I too can make an impact to so many like they do. I can find a career that will change the world, and that I will go home happy everyday because of it.

Like stated early, Flint is a community that is in need of many resources. But what I have been learning on service trips is the people in need are the ones that give the most. The underprivileged and the under loved individuals are the people with the biggest hearts and the most faith; that’s truly life changing to see. There is such a huge stigma placed on the people in the lower class, and the homeless. That stigma needs to be broken, I strongly believe that. So many are in need and so many of those people have the biggest hearts, so why aren’t we helping when we can?

When I was standing outside of Catholic Charities, an older man walked out of the building who was there receiving services. The man said “Hello”, and I said back “Hello how are you!” He said in such an uplifting and happy tone of voice, “I am SOO blessed, and God Bless you mam!” 

That moment is something I will never forget. His positive attitude is contagious, and I am sure he has many reasons to complain or to be upset at the world, but instead he doesn’t worry about that. He is just blessed to be on this earth. He made me realize how much I personally need to work on for being thankful and grateful for everyday. That’s what I want everyone that served on this trip to take, love.

 

Detroit. A place where dreams are created.

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When I think of Detroit I will think of the place where my dreams were created. Detroit inspired me so much that words can’t fully describe. Some people think of a city of lost hope, but those people just don’t know where to look for the hope. When I went to Detroit, Michigan this weekend I found hope in the people I met, I found hope in the places I went, and Detroit just gave myself so much more hope and dreams for myself.

This weekend I went to a Detroit service trip in Detroit, Michigan with my LAS (Leader Advancement Scholar) cohort. Going into the weekend I did not really know what to exactly expect. (Look at my Pre-Detroit trip blog to find out more) I knew the usual stereotype of Detroit, but I really went into the trip open-minded to fully take in ever ounce of Detroit I could. Let me tell you, it’s a beautiful place. People may say it’s broken, but just because something is broken does that make it not beautiful anymore? Or does that make it not fixable anymore? Detroit is a city full of beauty and hope, and people need to realize that.

My favorite and first thing the LAS group did on this Detroit service trip was volunteer with students at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. We went there to serve and help others, but those people in that school really helped me. They truly inspired me. The students in that school and in those classes are just too amazing to describe. They are so optimistic, so happy go lucky, and just so great I could not tell anything about them past their beautiful smiles. We were told that the students of Jalen Rose Leadership Academy located in Detroit mostly come from a broken down neighborhood with not the best home lives. But the thing is, I would of not of been able to tell that from those students if I wasn’t told otherwise. They were so passionate about everything and so happy to be there it was just so wonderful to see. Those kids have a rough life, but that doesn’t stop them. They don’t care if they are put into the stereotypical statuses of Detroit, it is their home. The students at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy really were big leaders to their peers and community in my eyes. I really loved being in the atmosphere of that school. That school has so much hope and so much love. Their love may be a in a different form then “regular” people are use to, but love is love; and love is a powerful thing. What really inspired me at Jalen Rose was how big of the impact the teachers and staff make a difference in their students lives. Writing that last sentence just gave me chills thinking about it. The teachers and staff of Jalen Rose Leadership Academy have HUGE hearts and are just such empowering role models, especially After a couple hours in their school and classrooms we later had dinner where we had the chance to talk to the teachers of the school. I asked them if they could receive outside help from volunteers what would they wish to get help with? One talked about how any help in the classroom from other outside resources is a huge help just by being an extra set of hands in the classroom to give attention to the students, or to even help the teacher with grading papers when they are swamped with stuff to do. The teacher’s at this school have to be really and fully committed to those students 100% of the time, not just there to help them with papers. They are there to help them with anything, and that is just so amazing to me. Another teacher answered my questions too, and his answer really impacted me a lot. He talked about just being another person there to be their role model would make a huge difference to them. He said that these students at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy have a range of role models from 0-2, where when we are asked who our role models are we can state a long list of people in our life that make a difference. These students in this school can not, what children need are just more role models in their lives. It just caught me off guard a little bit when the teacher stated that they don’t have role models to look up to. Those teachers of that school are their role models, and they put so much into those kids it is just inspirational. This trip made my decision to work with children for the rest of my life. My major is psychology and I have been undecided what field I want to go into, but after this experience I know there is a demand for role models in children’s lives. Jalen Rose Leadership Academy has transformed my dream into working with children for the rest of my life.

The second day of the Detroit service trip we worked with Detroit Blight Blusters, where we helped them spread mulch in a large area of land that they plan to fix up and turn into an apple orchard, or something to help the city of Detroit. Blight Blusters’ goal is just to better Detroit in different areas one step at a time. We were originally going to fix up a vacant house, but they could not get trash bins to be rented that day. The goal, dream, and hope of Blight Blusters is amazing and inspiring. My favorite part of the day working for them is when I met a little girl named Samiya (Spelling may be wrong). She was an eight year old girl, and was absolutely gorgeous. She talked to me and told me her dad works for Blight Blusters and she volunteers with him when she can. She also told me she is the king of Blight Blusters. She was the cutest thing and I just loved hearing her story. She knew what she was doing more than I did! I just really find so much inspiration, hope, and beauty in the children/teenagers I met in Detroit this weekend. The impact they are making is truly amazing.

This whole weekend was just really about servant leadership. It was a time for the Leader Advancement Scholar Cohort class of 2018 to come together as a whole and be servant leaders in the city of Detroit. We provided and cared for the others around us and stop focusing on ourselves for once. Our attention was to help students of the Jalen Rose Academy become better leaders in their city, state, community, and school; and also to help Blight Blusters continue their movement of helping Detroit becoming a better city one step at a time. It was an experience of servant leadership we should never forget.

Not only did the two service trips impact me this weekend, but just also the people I was surrounded with during them did too. We had a big sleep over with all the members of LAS in the CMU’s location in the heart of Detroit. The weekend was full of meaningful conversations during the sleepover, tour of the Lion’s stadium, during meals, and even on the bus. I bonded with so many on very deep levels. I will have memories from this weekend forever. During our last meal together at the Great Lake Crossing Mall’s food court, my leadership adviser’s (the one and only Dan Gaken) wife, Erin Smith Gaken, introduced me into the idea of having a minor of sign language. I was always fascinated by the idea of sign language but I guess I really never thought of myself actually majoring in it. The little conversation sparked a big interest in me. That’s why I think people are so important. Every around us is changing our lives in a small or big way. Conversations are important, and trips like this are also so so so important. This trip opened my eyes to a lot of things, and I appreciated all of it.

I didn’t go into this trip thinking it would change my dream or change my life that significantly but it did. I realized how important role models are. I finally set my goal of becoming a child psychologist, and decided to minor in sign language. I found a lot of myself in this service trip. We go into service trips thinking we are there to help and inspire the ones we are serving, but in the end the experience is actually life changing for us. A lot of people didn’t find this trip as amazing as I did because they have already did such a thing, or they live in or near Detroit; but all of this was new to me. All of this was new and eye opening for me. Going some place new or different can really change your mind set, and for me it did. Detroit opened my heart and mind to a new dream and to a new future. Detroit is a place full of hopes and dreams that should be accomplished. Detroit is something I’ll never forget.

The biggest question we are being asked when we came back from this service trip in Detroit is now what? Now what can we do with what we learned or experienced during our Detroit service trip?

Now I want to create a difference in the youth where ever I go.
Detroit really made me finally realize that the youth is where I want to put my focus on for the rest of my life. I want to continue my education in a career path of Psychology but have my focus be children. I want to find ways to impact the youth in Mount Pleasant, and in my hometown of Menominee Michigan. Blight Blusters said by making your own community a better place, you are making the world a better place. So many children and teenagers are without role models, and that is not okay. I will now find ways to be role models to the youth.

Now I want to find a way to fund raise for the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy for next year’s annual Detroit service trip. The staff of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy give so much to their students, and they deserve something in return. A lot of their student’s supplies comes out of their pocket, and I believe by having a school supplies fundraisers for them would be a great way to appreciate and say thank you to the staff of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. A little appreciation really goes a long way, and I know by supplying their classrooms would be a big help.

Now I see Detroit as a beautiful city. Detroit deserves more recognition then it receives. Detroit made me realize we get too caught up in the small things and forget to appreciate the little things. The big fuss on social media lately is the new update on snap chat, the celebrity roast on Justin Bieber, and the Duke vs. Wisconsin basketball game. Why are we worrying about that when people can’t even afford to own a phone, or even a house to live in? Some people can’t afford to put their children through education or even put food on the table. Detroit just made me realize stop complaining about the small stuff in life. We need to realize the big picture. Detroit just shows that people aren’t concerned about the big world problems unless they are directly effected by it. A good example of this is when we were waiting for our bus to arrive a bunch of people were waving money and shouting out the casino window. As they were doing that a homeless man was playing instruments on the street to raise his living, but people in the casino was not even affected by that or aware of it! There is so much we could be doing to help fix big world problems but instead we are too caught up in not having the iPhone 6. Detroit is a place full of hope and dreams, and real problems. Real problems they should be recognized, and now I really do recognize what we could be doing to make this world a better place.

Be open minded to change, different backgrounds, and different ways of life. No one’s life is the same and people seem to forget that. Detroit is a place of beauty and if people were more opened minded they would realize that.

Exit of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy
Exit of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy

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Pre-Service Trip: LAS in the D

This Friday to Saturday LAS (Leader Advancement Scholars) will be taking a service trip to Detriot, MI. First on Friday we will be volunteering at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, where we will be facilitating leadership activities to teach the students of Jalen Rose Leadership Academy leader qualities, how to facilitate such activities, and just teach them about college in general. Then on Saturday we are spending our day volunteering for the Motor City Blight Busters. And then of course we will be stopping at locations in Detroit for food and entertainment, and also professional locations. We will be going to Pizza Papalis, Lowe Campbell Ewald, and the Detroit Institute of the Arts. It should be a fun filled weekend and I am looking forward to the adventure and seeing what Detroit has to offer!

What social issues in Detroit are you aware of? How have you learned about these issues?

I am not fully aware of the social issues in Detroit, Michigan. I am aware of the crime issues being presented in Detroit, and also that it has a poor economy. I have never really been well educated on the topics and conflicts in Detroit. The only times I have really heard anything about Detroit was in the news occasionaly if it was for a bad education system or how many murders they have had. I live in the Upper Peninsula, so I haven’t really been exposed to Detroit problems until I have came to CMU. My hometown football team of my senior year played in the Division 5 Football State Championships in 2013. A good proportion of our town (Menominee, MI) attended this football championships. The game was played in the Detriot lions stadium. As entered the hotel, we picked up a news paper that had a head line of No Murders in the Past 24 Hours. So that made it clear to us outsiders that Detroit has a violence and crime issue. Though I have never been educated on the upsides of Detroit.

In what ways does this service learning experience to Detroit relate to the purpose and vision of the Leadership Institute?

The Leadership Institute purpose and vision is stated as . . .

PURPOSE: Central Michigan University is committed to preparing Michigan’s students and citizens for leadership roles in an increasingly complex and challenging society.

VISION: The Leadership Institute prepares the next generation of individuals who will act responsibly to improve the quality of life, state of the economy, and communities in which they live and work.

I feel like the Detroit service trip I will be partaking in is word for word of the Leadership Institute’s purpose and vision. We are volunteering at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a new high school to the city of Detroit. Our purpose is to increase leadership roles in Detroit! We want to make a chain reaction which is just an awesome idea. We are going to inspire the youth, and we are going to better others. And I believe that’s all what leadership is about. Then we are fulfilling the LI’s vision by trying to help the city of Detroit. We want to improve our home state as much as we can on this service trip. Even if it’s a small impact, it is still an impact we are creating.

How do you think the trip to Detroit will help you grow as an individual?

I am very unsure how this service trip will help me grow. I hope it really opens my eyes and see how something so little can make a change. I want to make an impact with individuals every day for the rest of my life, so I think this service trip will help me see a different perspective on how to help others. I am very unsure how this service trip will make me grow, but I am ready to see how it does. I will be very open minded during this trip, and I am really excited to see what it has to bring. My degree at CMU is psychology, but I am still undecided what field I want to focus on in psychology. A part of me wants to work with the youth, so I will get in insight on that as well when I attend this Detroit service trip.

I am ready to make a difference in the city of Detroit, Michigan. 🙂