Beyond Ann Arbor

By Anjena' Young

Semester in Detroit (SID) offers me a chance to live and learn about the city from an outsider’s view. Even though I am from Detroit, I didn’t know much about what actually is going on with the city. My SID courses allow me to learn about the rich history of Detroit that is not covered in the typical University class.

Learning about Detroit’s deindustrialization through our courses helps me relate to a lot of clients’ situations at my internship with Detroit Center for Family Advocacy.  The organization emerged through the University of Michigan Law School's Child Advocacy Law Clinic; its mission is to provide legal advocacy and social work services to low-income families. In SID, I've studied how the down economy and lack of suitable transportation makes it harder for unemployed residents to find work. I see how this impacts many of our CFA clients, who are unemployed and struggle to provide for their children, forcing the foster care system to get involved. CFA steps in and helps these families find solutions for unpaid bills, job issues and other legal and social barriers that work against them.

At CFA, I learn how non-profit organizations are run and also gain experience in a field that pertains to my career interest. Although I am not technically a legal intern, CFA treats me like one. I work alongside the lawyers and social workers on cases to assist in helping our clients. My job ranges from creating better strategies to inform the community about CFA (so that more families can start taking advantage of their services), to attending court with CFA attorneys who represent families and home visits with case social workers.

Over the course of this semester, I've found that the SID program provides excellent opportunities beyond what the Ann Arbor campus offers students. Working and living in the city allows me to interact with Detroit’s urban communities and study the City in ways I wouldn't by just living here, or visiting for a tigers game, or going out to dinner downtown. My opinions and thoughts count, and each course is unique in helping me develop a more in-depth understanding of the city. Living in Detroit also allows me to network and meet great people who work and live around the city, which enriches my experience here. For any student, it's an experience you wouldn't want to pass up.

Anjena' Young is a University of Michigan - Ann Arbor sophomore. This piece was orignaly published in Semester in Detroit's February 2013 Newsletter.