Clockwise from left: Ali Dewald; Jaylah Davis; Toussaint Anderson, Jr; and Grace Bergeron

Believe it or not, genuine engagement with Detroit and Detroiters is still possible during this remote, pandemic moment. Four U-M undergraduate students are participating in the whole Semester in Detroit Program this fall, while several additional students are enrolled in individual classes. To be sure, the immersion experience this fall looks and feels very different but our students are no less serious in their commitments to develop substantive and reciprocal relationships this semester.

Two of our students - Jaylah Davis and Grace Bergeron - are interning virtually with the Detroit Justice Center (DJC). Jaylah will focus on the Bail Project; DJC’s partnership with this national coalition in Detroit is one of nine cities around the country where people in need can receive bail support to reunite them with their families and to restore the presumption of innocence. Grace will be providing support to the DJC’s Just Cities Lab, one of the main projects they pursue under the “dreaming” portion of their mission and work.

Another SiD student, Toussaint Anderson Jr., will be interning with 482Forward, a SiD community partner that utilizes an organizing strategy to develop power as students, parents and teachers of Detroit schools (public, private and charter!). In addition to 482Forward’s critically important work building and sustaining the Covid-313 Community Coalition, they are involved with both local and statewide efforts to advocate for safely reopening our schools this fall. Because of Covid-19, Toussaint is living in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan; the upside is that Toussaint will connect with 482Forward’s network on the westside of the state, while also being engaged with Detroit-based organizing through this internship.

Ali Dewald, who plans to pursue a career in medicine and public health, decided to intern this fall with the United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC). Recently, there has been more attention paid to housing insecurity by people in the medical field as this challenge can be one of the more significant social determinants of health. Ali’s internship with UCHC will provide her with opportunities to engage with Detroit residents who have been affected by tax foreclosure, and to provide them with support and resources to hopefully stabilize their housing situations.

Lastly, Sean Stiles and Alana Burke (both of whom were students in Diana Seales spring 2020 community organizing class) decided to deepen their engagement with Detroit through community-based internships this fall. Sean will be working on a youth voter registration project in Detroit with Frontline/EMEAC; Alana will be providing virtual mentoring and tutoring support to girls and young women through an internship with Alternatives for Girls.

As this unprecedented fall semester unfolds, stay tuned to future e-news updates from our students!