You don’t have to live in Detroit to see the city’s potential. In fact, many non-Detroiters are looking for ways to come back and do their part to help the city regain its luster. Students in Michigan State University’s Hillel program, Destination Detroit: Building Bridges, work to make their mark by inspiring Detroit’s youth.
The Destination Detroit: Building Bridges program consists of nine diverse student groups from across MSU’s campus. The students meet once a month to complete community service projects where they work to forge bonds between Detroit youth, the city and one another.
Members of the Ford Blue Oval Scholars team had the opportunity to see the Destination Detroit: Building Bridges program in action last week, attending the organization’s monthly community service day at Amelia Earhart Elementary. On this service day, MSU students worked with groups of second-graders to create homemade pots and plant basil seeds. While laughing and working together, some of the college students took the opportunity to share with their second-grade partners that they grew up in an area close to their school.
“I especially find it meaningful that many of our MSU students once attended the same schools with which we provide services or lived in nearby neighborhoods,” said Dana Loewenstein, Director of Leadership Giving with MSU Hillel. “It truly puts a face on positive role models and giving back to the community.”
Patricia Jackson, a senior majoring in Social Relations and Policy and a native Detroiter, grew up in a nearby neighborhood and shared the importance of serving as a role model. “I make sure I am as positive and uplifting to the students as possible. They need it. Hopefully the positivity I try to display carries on into the children's future.” Jackson is also an intern with the program.
“The most rewarding part is when you've actually made a connection with the children. That feeling makes you always want to return,” she said.
Outside of serving youth in need, finding commonality is a major theme woven into the group’s activities. During their service, the group engages in meaningful discussion aimed at highlighting similarities between students with different backgrounds.
While in Detroit, the MSU students also visit prominent Detroit landmarks to deepen their understanding of the city and become inspired at the many opportunities they have to make a positive impact. The Destination Detroit: Building Bridges program aims to change the negative stigma attached to the city.
“We want students to realize they can come back to Detroit; that it is a vibrant city and that they can help rebuild,” said Loewenstein.
To read more about the program, visit the Destination Detroit: Building Bridges Facebook page