February 10th and 11th, 2017, I had the incredible experience of serving the city of Detroit with my Leadership Advancement Scholar cohort. This experience was amazing in so many different ways. Detroit being so close to home, is a place I frequently visited growing up. It has been amazing to see the progress being made to bring the city back to its former beauty. As I have witnessed these changes, I never really knew why or how it was all happening. Over the little time we spent in the city, I was able to learn about the people who are making these changes happen through their handwork, leadership, and commitment to the great city of Detroit.
We started our trip by visiting Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. JRLA is a public charter school in Detroit that works to build their students’ leadership skills. On our visit we facilitated leadership activities and debriefs to build their communication and leadership knowledge. We also spent time answering their questions about college. It was so incredible to see how ambitious the students were and how they hoped to make the world a better place. I spent a lot of time observing the school while I was there. As I wrote about before, Detroit schools have been struggling for many years now. JRLA definitely is much more developed than most schools within the district. I am very aware of how fortunate I am for where I come from. I was able to receive an education where resources were always at hand and I had so many people
supporting me. It is so astonishing that this same quality of education is not available to all students. It was clear to see that JRLA is striving to provide as much as they can for their students and are pushing them to be successful. But at the same time, they do not have all the technology and supplies readily available as many other students have. At the same time, many schools in Detroit have practically nothing.
Jalen Rose showed me how great of a need their is for leadership within the schools of Detroit. It is very possible to make the changes within the schools, but it takes very special, hardworking, and committed people to do it. The educators at Jalen Rose are making the greatest impact on their students, and are a large part of the change happening in the city. The teachers are making the choice to work in an area less well off because of the impact they can have on the people they work with. This clearly demonstrates servant leadership. The choices and efforts being made by the educators are motivated by the desire to do good for others rather than personal gain. They have chosen a career that will demand lots from them but will be making a lasting impact on their students.
My time at Jalen Rose showed me a real life example of passion. The students were passionate about their education and development. They applied to be a part of the program we provided to them, displaying their self drive. The students were passionate about learning about leadership and applying it to their everyday lives. Despite the various backgrounds they came from, they showed passion to better themselves and their lives. Their teachers are passionate about assisting them in this journey. No matter our situation or goals, we as people must work together to share passions and lift each other up. The power of one is extraordinary. “Alone we are passionate, but together we are a movement.
Next we moved our trip to Quicken Loans’ office in Campus Martius. When I heard we were visiting Quicken Loans I was genuinely confused; I did not understand why this was important or relevant to our trip. When we entered the office building they took us to the eighth floor, which was colorful and did not appear to be your typical office space. We ate in a large conference room as different members of the leadership team spoke with us about what Quicken Loans does and their internship program. Quicken Loans has invested lots of time and money into the development of Detroit. I have seen many of these changes over the years but had no idea they were all tied to this company. Quicken Loans has invested a lot into the development of real-estate around the city. They are working to reduce blight and crime all throughout Detroit. They have installed cameras around the city that monitor 24/7, since doing this crime rates have noticeably dropped. Aside from their efforts to bring beauty and development back to Detroit, they are working to bring jobs and young people to the city.
One of the questions we were asked at our debrief at the end of the day was “What is something you will tell people about Detroit after this trip?” My response is that Detroit is full of change. And Quicken Loans is trying to make young people a part of that change by providing numerous opportunities. The company has the fourth ranked internship, and provides opportunities to all different skill sets and interests. This opportunity encourages people to come be a part of the development in the city.
From my experience at Quicken Loans I would like to focus more on the value in everything I do as it pertains to my personal growth and development. I have employment lined up for this summer, but in the future I would like to choose paths that will benefit me greater in my future. Quicken Loans is a company that promotes the development of its employees. I need to begin focusing more on my development and professional growth. With this, as I develop myself I wish to make an impact on the people and community around me, like the interns at Quicken Loans have the ability to do.
Saturday morning we volunteered at Cass Community Center, where we were broken up into smaller groups and tasks. I was assigned to the sorting of donations. Cass is a center which works to provide food, housing, health services, and employment to homeless. It was interesting to learn about the development of the center over the years. One of the directors of the program explained to us the work and time invested in the expansion of services provided by Cass. They began as a program through a church and have now grown to be their own entity. This independent program started in two building and is now at eleven. Within all their programs, Cass’ mission is to provide services to the homeless which will later allow them to become stable, independent members of society once again. Some of the jobs available for those participating in the program include shredding documents and created products from recovered waste such as tires, glass, and wood.
What is innovative about this work is that as they are providing employment for those who would struggle to find a typical job, they are also working on improving the city. Cass cleans up waste that has been dumped in the city, and taking the homeless off of the streets. The job of redeveloping Detroit is not something a single person or strategy can accomplish. Many people were a part of creating the success of Cass Community Center. This is not limited to the volunteers and directors of the program. All the community members who are receiving the services provided by Cass are making a difference in the community. By getting off the streets and working to make a change in their lives, they are helping to better the community. To make a change, you must begin with yourself.
As a leader, I must remember that no one person or strategy can accomplish a goal. With this, nothing extraordinary can be completed in an instance. I have the ability to make a difference in the world and any cause I am passionate about. I am capable of completing any challenge, but I need to remember that this requires time and support. I often struggle with patience, and get frustrated with lack of progress. A leader must be consistent in their efforts even if the results are not instant. If I lack persistence I will never be able to accomplish everything I hope to or fulfill my potential. I must change myself for the better, before I can change the world.