While most students were still asleep on Saturday, more than 800 students took part in community service projects throughout Detroit for the ninth-annual Detroit Partnership Day.
The event, better known as “DP Day,” was hosted by the service-learning organization The Detroit Partnership, which sent students to over 50 sites in the Detroit area. Most students worked in the northwest neighborhoods of the city, helping to clean up parks, paint murals and clear out abandoned homes for demolition.
This year’s DP Day, which was the organization’s biggest event of the year, was also the group’s first major event since it changed its name last month.
Formerly called The Detroit Project, the organization decided to change to The Detroit Partnership because group leaders said it better captured the goal of the organization’s work.
“We didn’t want it to sound like Detroit would be ‘fixed,’ ” said Kathryn Rice, a University alum planning team member for The Detroit Partnership. “It’s more about working with Detroit.”
LSA senior Michael O’Brien, a member of the group’s planning committee, said the new name demonstrated the larger purpose of the organization. The group also organizes weekly projects, which include tutoring students in Detroit’s public schools.
At first glance, DP Day volunteers could have been confused for construction workers, spending the day knocking down walls of a fire-damaged home. Others wore facemasks and gloves while clearing out debris from inside of the house. Some sorted through stacks of books from the house that were set aside for donation. Students demolishing the house partnered with Motor City Blight Busters, a non-profit organization that works to rebuild and sell affordable housing to Detroit residents.
John J. George, co-founder and president of Blight Busters, said the partnership helps the group accomplish projects more quickly.
“What the volunteers are doing today would take a paid crew a year to do,” George said.
George said that after the students finished, a construction crew will rebuild the home so it can be sold to a new family.
A few miles away in downtown Brightmoor, another group of students worked with a local artist to paint murals in hopes of improving the community’s atmosphere.
“It’s a way to give back to the community, both locally and globally,” said LSA senior Miriam Schwartz, who helped paint the murals.
Local artist Charles Miller directed Schwartz and the other students who helped paint the murals. Miller is a founding member of Public Art Workz, a nonprofit organization that works with Blight Busters to improve Detroit by painting murals throughout the city.
Some students worked alongside Miller and helped prime city walls for larger projects, while other students filled in designs that the Detroit-native created.
O’Brien said the experience also helped students break down the stereotypes surrounding Detroit.
“When you can see a tangible difference, then you can ask yourself, ‘What more can I do?’ ” O’Brien said.