Hundreds of students demolished abandoned homes, cleaned parks and painted murals for the University’s 11th annual Detroit Partnership Day on Saturday.
The Detroit Partnership — a service learning organization — partners University students with Detroit schools, churches and community groups in an effort to give back to Detroit and help students learn more about the city.
During DP Day, participants volunteered at 30 different sites in northwest and southwest Detroit from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year, DP Day had the largest attendance in the past 10 years, with nearly 1,000 students participating. Last year, 800 students participated in the volunteer day.
Prior to the event, DP leaders met with officials from Detroit to decide which sites were in need of the most help. Business senior Neil Thanedar, the executive director of DP, said DP has an active role in bettering Detroit and creating a strong partnership between the city and University students.
While cleaning parks and painting murals in schools are valued projects, Thanedar said demolishing abandoned homes — a major part of the volunteer day — is important because those empty buildings often attract drug users and gangs.
Thanedar has been involved with DP since he was a freshman. Now executive director of the group, Thanedar worked with other DP members to plan DP Day throughout the year. He said Detroit residents appreciate the work the students do on DP Day.
“What is amazing is that the people of Detroit see students working on Saturday mornings and people who live there come out and help them,” Thanedar said. “The people you meet in the city are truly amazing.”
Public Policy junior Jenya Abramovich was a site leader at this year’s DP Day. Abramovich’s group helped a family clean an empty lot in preparation for turning it into an urban garden. Abramovich said while her group was removing trash, some of the neighbors began picking up trash from their own lawns.
“We inspired others on the block to clean up their street,” Abramovich said. “This kind of work is very satisfying because I know that even after we leave Detroit, the community is going to continue those efforts because they are invested in this effort to bring progress to the neighborhood.”
Though DP day is the most visible part of the the program, Thanedar said DP is part of a larger mission to benefit the city of Detroit.
Throughout the school year, about 150 University students travel to Detroit each week to provide tutoring and mentoring services for underprivileged students in 20 Detroit schools. The DP also provides GED training, programs that teach English as a second language and résumé building workshops to help young adults in the work force.
Thanedar said DP participants who volunteer weekly in Detroit schools are able to learn about the city as a whole, adding that the educational experience is just as important as the actual cleaning of the city.
“I really hope everyone who volunteered would consider Detroit not just as a place that needs help but a vibrant place of life that is worth investing in,” Thanedar said.