Detroit. A place where dreams are created.

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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Leadership Safari

Leadership Safari is an event that Central Michigan University organizes for incoming freshmen to participate in the week before classes actually begin. It is a week for new CMU students to come together and learn life changing leadership skills. The week is filled with activities, speakers, and leadership experiences. It is a time for students to make new friends, and connect on a dipper personal level. The Leadership Safari of 2014 had the largest numbers of participants yet, and I was grateful to be apart of it.

My Leadership Safari experience was truly amazing. Everyone in safari was placed into a group; my group was Team Meerkat. I remember the first night when we first met our team members, I was scared out of my mind. No one wanted to talk or participate in the activities. I remember thinking that I was here for a reason, not just to pass up this opportunity. By the third day of safari my group was finally started opening up, and our lives were changing together. I remember three moments specifically that made our group closer and stronger as individuals.

First moment: Fairness Lunch
The fairness lunch was an activity designed to teach us how our society and peers are really effected by starvation. When it was time for lunch everyone got separated into two different lines. One group received a full lunch with a sandwich, cookies, fruits, and a drink. The second group received a small lunch with crackers and a water. My team member Jacob and I received the small lunch. We thought the whole thing was a joke. Once we opened our lunch bags to see what we had, we turned around to complain we didn’t get enough. Instead of giving us more food, they sent us back to our group. Jacob and I were the only ones in our group that did not get a lunch.

Fairness Lunch
Fairness Lunch

Once we got back to the group everyone was eating their huge lunch. Jacob and I sort of made a scene because we were mad at the time, and instead of the others sharing they were cruel about it. Jacob had an extra bag of chips in his backpack that he brought and shared them with me. The funny thing I noticed was that the two suffering were the ones sharing. The others just watched and ate their sandwiches. Soon our team leader sat us down and explained what was going on. She read us facts of how many people are under the poverty line and can not afford food. So many students at CMU can’t even afford their food. The point of the activity was to realize how lucky we are if we can afford food and water. Also by Jacob and I experiencing the fairness lunch together we bonded on a closer personal level. It is something I will never forget. It impacted me more then I expected. I grew up struggling financially, so this hit close to home. An activity so simple showed us how lucky we truly can be. Never take for granted what you have, and respect others around you.

Second Moment: Story Activity
One activity the group participated in was a scenario activity. Each team member received a piece of paper that stated something you had to pretend was true about your life. Mine said, “You have a little brother with down-syndrome.” Then one member from our team read the story out loud to the group. The story was a story full of put downs and rude stereotypes. The story repetitively used the word retarded. Along with other words and phases such as, “Go kill yourself”,  “fat ass”, “gay”, and “stupid”. Each member of my group was affected by the words being said in this story. It taught us those put downs and phrases should never be said. By choosing to use the term retarded, you are referring to someone with downs-syndrome. If you choose the phrase go kill yourself, the person actually might take it literally. Our choice of every day terms can and will affect the others around us. We need to be aware of other’s feelings, and that story taught my team that. A lot of my members of my team were from close minded communities, and this was a very hard activity for them. This activity was the most impacting to our group. It brought up topics of conversation that hurt everyone’s feelings in some way. This activity made our group closer every step of the way.

Third Moment: Saying Goodbye
Our last day of Leadership Safari was hard. Every single member of the Meerkat Team bonded and connected in some way. On the very last day we stood in a circle and swayed back and forth. As we did that our team leader (Mama Meerkat) instructed us to tell each other positive things about the week we experienced together. By the end every single one of us were in tears. We could not help it but cry when we said goodbye. It is crazy to think by the end of one week you can be so close to so many people. One gentlemen named Matt (also known as mango Matt) inspired me the most at the end. He spoke words that made those tears stream down my face. He told us how much our group changed his life for the better, and how much we mean to him. Matt was someone that was soft spoken, but once he spoke it was truly empowering. He told us personal items about his life that I will not share on this post due to confidentiality, but what he told us changed my life forever. It was proof that any experience can change your life, and that you need to be willing to change at any moment if that moment will make you a better person; a person you always strive to be.

Leadership Safari was an opportunity I was so happy to be apart of, and will never forget. I made relationships in the group that will always stay strong. Our Mama Meerkat is still a mentor to me this day that I am so grateful for her. Also I met my best friend Kirsten there, who told me that after that week passed she told her mom right away she met a girl that she knows will be in her wedding; and that girl is me.
Leadership Safari also taught me leadership lessons in a new personal setting that I really enjoyed. Leadership Safari is something I recommend to every incoming freshmen at Central Michigan University.

If you would like to read more information about Central Michigan University Leadership Safari please visit this link: