Detroit, Rock City

Blessed are we that are a part of the Leadership Institute (LI) at Central Michigan University. There are endless connections and opportunities that stem from these two. One opportunity that I had was going and serving in Detroit for a weekend. The service leadership experience was beneficial for the community we served and also culturally educational for us on the trip.

We began our day traveling to the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JLRA). Here we worked in the students’ homeroom classes that were separated by gender, facilitating various ice breakers, team building activities, and debriefing. This was my very first time facilitating to high school students who were relatively around my age, and I thought I was more nervous than the freshman in the classroom! To start out the students were sort of quiet, unsure of how the day was going to go. We set Community Standards for our time together, and then jumped right into breaking the ice through an ice breaker where students tossed to each other a beach ball that had questions written on them, answering the question that was written where their right thumb landed. This activity got the students laughing, talking amongst each other and proceeded the Gutter Ball activity perfectly. The Gutter Ball activity allowed the students to exemplify leadership, teamwork, and communication, and the debrief afterward allowed a time of reflection to analyze how the students could use these concepts in their everyday lives.

After we said goodbye to the freshman, we worked with the PILOT students and Butta students within JRLA. We were separated into groups where we better got to know those individuals within our group. We also worked with them doing various team building activities and we also taught them how to facilitate the activities we facilitated for the freshman students (they were also in the classroom participating as well).

After our time at JRLA concluded, we went to Lowe Campbell Ewald and got a tour of the advertisement/marketing firm located in the heart of Detroit right inside Ford Field. We were privileged enough to get a surprise tour of Ford Field. We also got to see what the cultural side of Detroit has to offer through exploring through the Detroit Institute of Arts.

We stayed the night in Central Michigan University’s Welcome Center in downtown Detroit. Saturday we spent assisting the Motor City Blight Busters of Detroit, spreading mulch in preparation for their community garden area. [ view Blight Busters inside video at the work we did here ]

One of the most eye-opening parts of the trip for me was the time between eating dinner at Pizza Poppolis and waiting for our bus to take us to the D.I.A. We were right next to the casino where there was a group of older Central alumni that were having a ball entertaining us. Right at the corner of the street right next to the Casino was a man named Kashin. He was a kind soul that played flute and saxophone for us even despite the frigid weather. The fact that these two very different life styles can be seen within Detroit within feet of each other is breathtaking. [ take 10 seconds and listen to a snippet of Kashin’s music playing here ]

One example of leadership during the trip was exemplified by our bus driver who all weekend serviced a bus full of CMU students and faculty/staff. He was always ready to serve us in the best way possible. He put up with the numerous (unneeded) complaints from students about the fluctuating temperature while on the bus, the volume while watching the movies, etc.

I can connect our bus driver to servant leadership because he was putting his followers needs before the needs of his own. He opened up his own window, letting in all the cold, so the students in the far back sitting over the hot engine could get a cool draft. He was a blessing on our trip and allowed us to enjoy it without more hassle than it could have been, and I believe he didn’t get the recognition he deserves for the service he lovingly provided for us.

My opinion prior to the trip was that Detroit was still alive. After this trip I still believe that Detroit is very much so alive.

There are people who are doing things in Detroit to bring business back into the city, such as Lowell Campbell Ewald, and there are also people working towards cleaning the city up and giving it a better atmosphere, such as the workers of Blight Busters.

After this trip I now understand that I truly value most relationships that are built with people from service trips that I attend. Some memorable people from my recent service trip to Detroit:

There was Brandon, a student from Jalen Rose Leadership Academy: talking with him about leadership and life, seeing his drive and determination, and answering his questions about college and future was so inspiring to me.

There was also Kashin, the warm spirited man sitting downtown, who joyfully played us wonderful music on his flute and saxophone despite the frigid temperatures: his warm spirit and smile were instantaneously contagious. [ here’s your second chance to take 10 seconds and listen to a snippet of Kashin’s music playing here ]

And also beautiful, beautiful Naria, the hard working, little girl at the job site of Detroit Blight Busters: talking, laughing and running around to try to stay warm with her quickly filled my heart with such joy.

The city of Detroit is often misunderstood and unfortunately the people of Detroit are often misunderstood with it. These people are filled with a hope and desire to see their city revamped back to its original roots, and people are doing something about it too. Being able to say that I was even just a small part in this large movement through making a difference in these peoples lives will continuously be to be encouraging and love filling.

(read the official UComm Press Release)
(see more about our service trip to Detroit here)

Forever loving my Detroit Rock City,


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