On Saturday, about 1,400 students left campus to spend their day volunteering in Detroit as part of the University’s 15th Detroit Partnership Day.
The Detroit Partnership, a student-run nonprofit organization at the University, holds DP Day every year as a day of service and promote ties between the University community and Detroit. The Detroit Partnership also holds weekly community service-based activities.
From approximately 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., students volunteered with 19 Detroit-based organizations at multiple sites scattered around Detroit’s Brightmoor and Southwest areas. Throughout the day, students painted murals, cleaned up neighborhoods and boarded up abandoned houses.
Many nonprofits and urban gardens have taken root in Brightmoor, a neighborhood in the northwest part of Detroit. Northwest Detroit comprises of Delray, Mexicantown and other neighborhoods.
“There’s so much hope here,” said LSA junior Anna Salomonsson, DP community leader. “You can see that people care about the city and want to change it and want to make it better.”
At Neighbors Building Brightmoor, a local organization dedicated to neighborhood betterment, students used rakes and shovels to clean up streets and sidewalks. They also painted signs with inspirational messages. The signs will be placed along the Lyndon Greenway in Northwest Detroit to motivate children as they pass by on their way to school.
Detroit resident Dawn Wilson Clark painted the signs along with students. She said DP Day gives University students the opportunity to see Detroit firsthand.
“It gives them an opportunity to see positive things in the neighborhood as opposed to what they see on the news,” Clark said.
Public Policy junior Patrick Sier, DP major events director, said the event ending the day was called a rally, but this year the organization emphasized reflection. Site leaders were encouraged to reflect on the day and ask participants questions.
“We’re trying to make this more of a starting point for a lot of people, trying to get them more interested in social justice issues,” Salomonsson said. “You shouldn’t just do this once a year. You should think about why it is important to do service and continue that.”
Business sophomore Trevor Flegenheimer, who also participated in DP Day last year, said this year the organization is focusing more on cleaning up the city and interacting with the Detroit community.
“I feel like we’re actually in the center of the city, making a bigger difference,” Flegenheimer said.
Business sophomore Sam Woodbury also participated in DP Day last year. He said this year he felt like he was able to better connect with the Detroit residents.
“I talked to someone who lives here and she was thanking us for coming out today, helping out her street and helping out her community,” Woodbury said. “Doing something like that just makes me want to come back again. It affirms why we’re here–to help people.”
Another group of students spent the day working at The Heidelberg Project, an outdoor art community that transforms abandoned houses and discarded objects into art structures.
DP Day participants cleared out debris and searched for pliable wood from Heidelberg houses that were recently burned down by arsonists. As soot-covered students dug through the ashes of what once were homes, they found ash-ridden stuffed animals and broken records.
At the end of the day, students gathered at the James Scott Memorial Fountain on Belle Isle to reflect on the day. Lloyd Carr, former University football coach — who has attended DP Day for the past five years — spoke to participants.