Ann Arbor residents and Detroiters alike worked together for the University of Michigan's largest day of service learning this past weekend, as over 900 University students traveled to the city for a series of volunteer projects centered around clean-up and farming.
The event was organized by The Detroit Partnership, a student-run nonprofit aiming to unite Ann Arbor residents and Detroiters. This year marked the 17th annual day of service connecting students to volunteer sites across the city.
“Volunteers participate in various hands-on projects throughout the city of Detroit, from urban gardening, to clean up and demolition with a focus on community revitalization,” the organization’s website reads.
Twenty-one service sites from around the city participated in DP Day. At each site, Community Coordinators helped to run volunteer projects and lead reflections at the end of the day, with assistance from student site leaders.
This year, University students also partnered with volunteers from University of Detroit Mercy, Wayne State University and UM-Dearborn.
LSA sophomore Myka Yamasaki is a member of the education team of The Detroit Partnership. She participated in the day herself, volunteering at Greydale Farm in the Brightmoor neighborhood.
“It’s an urban farm, so we did mostly a lot of trash pickup,” she said. “A lot of people were helping create dirt piles that will be used to help grow produce.”
Yamasaki said she and other student participants felt they were really making a difference through DP Day, and were glad they could offer real assistance to the farm’s owner.
“The woman who owns the farm … said she was really happy we were there,” Yamasaki said. “She said that the amount of trash pickup on the farm and in the surrounding area, and the woodchip and leaf litter piles, would’ve taken her three months to do on her own. It was pretty good to hear that we could actually do something helpful for them, instead of them just feeling like they’re hosting us.”
The stated goal of the day was to involve students in the city and begin to build a connection, and Yamasaki said she saw students becoming more invested. She said there was a lot of interest in The Detroit Partnership’s weekly volunteer programs, which connect students to the city throughout the school year.
“People were really willing to ask me questions about what (else) Detroit Partnership does besides DP Day … which is really cool, because that’s something we want to encourage,” she said. “It’s not just one day, volunteering and forming a partnership with Detroit, so it’s really great to see.”