The Detroit Partnership’s “The SOUP” event brought students together Wednesday to learn about Detroit-based charities through a collaborative environment and a soup dinner.
The event, part of the University of Michigan’s second annual Detroit Week, was modeled off of the Detroit SOUP, a micro-granting dinner that sponsors Detroit-based projects and aims to foster a sense of community for its attendees.
The Detroit Partnership had hosted SOUP events for several years before Detroit Week started, and organizers said they were asked to come together with several other student organizations, including Semester in Detroit and the Black Student Union, to help initiate Detroit Week and continue the event this year.
Public Policy senior Blair Sucher, part of the recruitment staff of Semester in Detroit and one of the main organizers of Detroit Week for the past two years, told the audience the event was about broadening the narrow views in which many people see the city.
“Detroit Week is really about branching out from the norms of how we see Detroit…there are a lot of narratives that are talked about when you talk about Detroit,” she said. “The point of Detroit Week is really to broaden that view and see it from a different light.”
To participate in SOUP events, attendees pay a sum of money — in this case, $5 — which buys them dinner and a chance to vote on which charity idea they would like to see come to life. The money raised from the event goes directly to the winning project.
While most SOUP events end in a vote, due to last minute cancellations from two of the presenting groups, The Children of Detroit was the only charity to present and received the event earnings of $200.
The Children of Detroit is a non-profit tutoring program started by Olivia McKinney and Courtney Blackett, Clarkston Junior High School freshmen. McKinney and Blackett said they and a few other tutors plan to travel to Schulze Academy for Technology and the Arts in Detroit to help the students grow and learn.
While they noted that they are starting small, they said their overall aim is to grow their organization to help students at various Detroit public schools and give them a fair chance at success.
McKinney and Blackett said the idea for the nonprofit stemmed from encouragement in their language arts class to create activist campaigns, and their passion for Detroit.
McKinney said she hoped by improving Detroit’s education system, it would improve perceptions of the city as a whole.
“I think that by helping kids in the school system and by helping the next generation, (people’s views) will improve slowly,” McKinney said.
Many of the students who attended the event were students involved in the Detroit Partnership. LSA senior Shannon Folster, who serves on the Education Team within the Detroit Partnership, said she thought SOUP fit into Detroit Week because it was a way of getting the campus together to support programs benefitting Detroit.
“It’s a cool way to get people together to celebrate something we’re interested in within Detroit context,” Folster said.
LSA senior Imran Hakim Mohamedsha, the Detroit Partnership’s education director, said he hopes attendees leave the event feeling inspired.
“If a freshman in high school could do something like a peer tutoring project, obviously as college students we have more resources and experience so I hope that we all feel a bit challenged to do a bit more,” he said.
LSA junior Amalia Gomez-Rexrode said she attended because she volunteers at the Detroit Hispanic Development Center, adding that her experience as an out-of-state student spending time in Detroit has been meaningful for her.
“I thought it was a wonderful event, definitely very casual, really conducive to good conversation and it was awesome to hear from these freshmen who were just so innovative and really want to make a difference so that was incredibly inspiring,” Gomez-Rexrode said.