Before I get started reflecting on the SStS: Detroit course, I want to take this opportunity to look back at what we, the students and instructors, accomplished. What did we really achieve while we were in Detroit? I know we are asked to talk about this and present these findings to our schools and communities in the fall, so why not lay it all out now?
I think that first and foremost, we helped, quite literally, in the cleanup of Detroit. Now, obviously, with 15 people and essentially less than a week, we were not a BIG part in the Keep it 100 Project. However, every part makes a difference, and I’m a firm believer that sometimes the smallest jobs are the ones that help the most. Every person matters; that is something Detroit taught me.
In the neighborhoods we worked in painting boards for abandoned properties’ windows and doors and planting gardens, the PEOPLE were the most important aspect of the activities. Building relationships, and beyond that, LASTING relationships, is the way Focus: Hope has achieved so much, and come so far, in the city of Detroit. At a certain point, money and materials and things don’t matter, unless you have a willing community and an eager staff and volunteer base. It’s the people who make the difference, not the things, and it’s those relationships, the ones we witnessed between Focus: Hope leaders and the community members, that matter so much to causes like these.
I also want to take a step back and look at Students Shoulder to Shoulder from a global perspective. I mean, what is it that SStS is trying to achieve? There are programs all around the”¨world, and several in America as well. But what is it all for? Wouldn’t it just be better to send money to the organizations we partner with and pay other people, people from those areas, to do the work we do while we are there?
And that’s where we come in. At a certain point, SStS goes beyond helping out Detroit or Kenya or Peru or any of the programs it sponsors. At a certain point, it creates a focus on what we bring back to our communities. It stops being about painting wood and starts being about what we’ll tell our friends about painting that wood. What was it for? Who did it help? What was it like? Where were you? What did you ACHIEVE?
So beyond saying Detroit taught me more about myself, and helped me discover new things and learn more history and blah blah blah (which are all just as important…), Detroit is about helping me find a way to tell other people what we did and what our mission was and how we achieved it. It’s about SHOWING rather than telling other people what a difference we made, and how they can make a difference not only in their community, but also in communities all around the world. It’s about making courses like these less about service hours and something else to put on your resumÃ©, and more about improving the world. Without Detroit, and without these ideas, people like us wouldn’t want to improve the world, and we’d be content to stay in our bubble without a thought to spare for the outside world.
So, in essence, I’m saying SStS Detroit, like any of the programs with Students Shoulder to Shoulder, is about teaching us what’s out there, outside of our bubble, and what we can do to help improve it. It’s about teaching us what’s possible.