SiDizens Spring 2012
Neighbors Building Brightmoor Intern
During Semester in Detroit, everything connected for me. I felt closeness to the community I was interning with in Brightmoor and my community of SiD students. I connected with issues I had never delved into thanks to other SiD students reflecting on their experiences. I realized many truths about myself that were brought out by my experiences in Detroit.
Today, I live and work in Detroit and could not be happier. I work at the Michigan Science Center as a marketing coordinator and live in Woodbridge, just west of Midtown. The city allows me to follow my passions and my career goals with relative ease. If you ever need a connection in the city, don't hesitate to reach out!
Inaugural SID Program, Winter 2009
State Representative Rashida Tlaib Intern
After graduating, Diana moved to southwest Detroit and spent a year as an Americorps intern with Gleaners Community Food Bank. In the summer of 2010, she was hired as Campaign Manager for Representative Tlaib's run at a second term in the State House where she was easily re-elected. Diana earned her Master's degree from the U-M Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. She currently lives in Detroit.
SID Spring 2011, Inaugural Spring Cohort, along with 11 other wonderful people.
Racquet Up Detroit Intern
Raquet Up Detroit is a youth development program located in Northwest Detroit. Racquet Up combines the sport of squash, with academic tutoring and mentoring to help serve youth in the community. Since taking part in SID, Rashard graduated and moved back to Detroit to work full-time with Racquet Up Detroit. He currently serves as the Academic and Community Engagement Coordinator for the organization. He often credits his current success to SID, because it led to his current work at Racquet Up!
Leeya Correll, of Ann Arbor, is now a senior in the Residential College and the Program in the Environment. She came to Detroit with a serious interest in environmental justice work and chose to intern with the Southwest Detroit Business Association. Her primary project was working to address blighted properties in SW Detroit through the Wayne County Nuisance Abatement program, and she was the main organizer of a community-wide spring clean-up event throughout SW Detroit.
Monique Gaines, of Detroit, is now a senior in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. She was born and raised on Detroit's eastside. She came into the program with an intimate knowledge of her eastside community, but with little familiarity with much of the rest of the city. She chose to intern with the Redford branch of the Detroit Public library, located in the far northwest part of Detroit. There, she established new social networking strategies in the library, and also worked to assist high school youth with tutoring and college guidance.
Matthew Hampel, of Ann Arbor, graduated from the U-M Residential College in April 2010. He came to Detroit with an interest in the intersection between technology and civic democracy. He found the perfect internship with the newly established Data Driven Detroit organization, which is working to collect, organize and make available to the public a wide range of data and demographic information about the city. Matt is now working full-time as the Technology Coordinator of the U-M Ginsberg Center.
HUB/Capuchin Soup Kitchen
I had a wrench in my hand on the first day of my internship at the Hub of Detroit, a non-profit retail bike shop in the Cass Corridor that serves Detroit's diverse cycling community. Funds raised by the shop support the Back Alley Bikes free youth education programs. The work I do with the Hub, both learning new skills and teaching others, is a very hands-on, active process. Every week we bike out to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen to set up a bicycle repair shop and run a drop-in maintenance program with the kitchen guests. Through this collaboration, I've been able to help the Hub reach out to broader community with needs on many levels.
The need for mobility and access to healthy foods are connected issues in Detroit. Many neighborhoods have liquor stores on every corner and not a single grocery store, and residents struggle to find transportation to school, work, and food markets. Earthworks, the urban farm project of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, provides garden resources and education to build a healthy, local food source in the community. I spend as much time as I can in the Earthworks greenhouse before starting the community bike workshop at the soup kitchen next door. It is amazing to see community relationships and fresh veggies grow in places that many see as abandoned.
In collaboration with Earthworks and the Hub, I'm involved in projects that provide resources for a comprehensive community response to the need for healthy food and self-reliant transportation. One such project is the Mobile Market, a neighborhood-driven initiative to create a healthier community by bringing fresh, chemical-free produce to the surrounding neighborhoods. At the Hub we use bike carts often to get supplies around town; we're using this technology to help the community members build and maintain bikes and bike carts for delivering the Mobile Market produce. Working next to someone to grow food and fix a bike has been the best experience for me to see what people are capable of. I've met some truly inspiring people who have opened my eyes to the real developments going on in Detroit, underneath the negative headlines. I'm excited to have received an AmeriCorps position to continue working in this community over the Summer, helping cultivate the seeds we've planted into a healthy, supportive community.
Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice
As the senior member of the first class of Semester in Detroit (or SID, as we’ve begun to call it), I entered this program with a set of clearly defined goals and ideas of what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to intern with an organization whose mission and values aligned with mine, an organization whose work I truly respected and an environment where people really take pride in what they do. Furthermore, as a prospective law student starting law school in the fall I wanted to find out, before it was too late, whether the field of law would be a good match for me and I am happy to say I found all those things at Sugar Law.
Founded in Detroit in 1991, the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice began as a national litigation and policy project of the National Lawyers Guild. Today, Sugar Law is a nationally-recognized non-profit legal center whose main goal is to provide legal advocacy, representation, education and technical support to empower community groups, worker’s rights groups and individuals seeking systemic change towards economic and social justice. On my very first day as an intern I accompanied our Legal Director, John Philo, to court (my very first time stepping into a courtroom!) but throughout the internship I also got the opportunity to join him in meetings with community based groups, union-members and activists in the city of Detroit, to study the WARN Act and how different states, including Michigan, have adopted it, and moreover to gain an understanding of how people and organizations, when they come together, can change their communities for the better. Most of my work, however, has been focused on a particular wage and hour project that Sugar Law is planning to launch soon.
Through my preliminary research for the project, I learned that amidst this financial crisis an increasing amount of low-income workers, many of them immigrants, are forced to take temporary and casual jobs to feed their families. This desperate situation exposes their vulnerability to employers who sometimes take advantage of them by failing to pay their wages. In the state of Michigan, even though last year there were over 7,000 wage and hour claims reported to the Department of Labor (an 11% increase since the year before) there are not many non-profit organizations in Michigan that process these types of claims, which means that even though these cases are becoming more common, a growing amount of hard-working people will continue to be taken advantage of.
This need is precisely what our Wage and Hour project will address and I am very grateful to have the chance to be part of this endeavor. When looking at the big picture, I can also say that my internship placement is enough reason to feel fortunate as a person as well as a student: I have not only had the chance to work in a meaningful project, but also among people who are are good at the important work they perform, who are passionate about what they want our society to look like, and who have made, already, a positive, long-lasting impact on my life.
Ashlee Stratakis, of Dearborn, graduated from the U-M Organizational Studies program in April 2010. She grew up just outside of Detroit and came to this program with an interest in the structure and function of non-profit organizations. She chose to intern with the New Detroit, the Coalition -- a multi-faceted organization that emerged in Detroit right after the 1967 Detroit riot/rebellion. Her project focused on developing case studies of a federal grant administered by New Detroit that focuses on building the capacity of small grassroots organizations in Detroit. Today, Ashlee lives in Detroit and is teaching in a Detroit public school through the newly re-established Teach for America program.