Despite a fearful forecast of freezing rain on this past Saturday’s Detroit Partnership Day, the sun shined on Detroit as 1,100 University volunteers worked alongside hundreds of community members at 29 sites. Participants fought blight by demolishing abandoned homes, beautifying neighborhoods with urban gardens, creating friendlier spaces for children by cleaning up parks and schools and changing the landscape of neighborhoods by painting murals. The goal: To perform service, and form bonds with Detroiters.

DP volunteers did more than just make a difference in the city. They formed a connection to the city, to its people, its organizations and its neighborhoods. DP Day is about more than community service; it’s about service learning. Volunteers met residents, learned about community nonprofits and engaged in meaningful conversations with neighbors and volunteers from across the city. This is part of the true value of DP Day. DP Day is not about “saving” the city, and the DP doesn’t view Detroit as merely a backdrop for service. The purpose of DP Day is to open volunteers’ hearts and minds to the city of Detroit, to engage with community members, to reflect about what it means to do service, to explore ways to become more involved in the larger community and to show why we should be interested in the city.

This Thursday, DP Day volunteers are invited to discuss their experience at a pizza chat at 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in 3463 Mason Hall. Volunteers can come to reflect on their service work and tell the DP how they would like to see the volunteer experience improved for next year. Even those who did not participate may come to learn more about ways to stay involved in Detroit. For students who missed DP Day, the DP will provide information on an upcoming service opportunity in Brightmoor, a neighborhood on Detroit’s northwest side where more than 700 DP Day volunteers worked. In addition to offering weekly volunteer programs in schools, churches and community centers, The Detroit Partnership is working with The Ginsberg Center to create Sociology 389 — a three-credit Project Community course that will further foster the learning aspect of the DP weekly volunteer service-learning experience. Attendees can also hear about a weeklong DP Day experience: A Detroit Partnership alternative spring break trip.

Students interested in getting more involved in The Detroit Partnership, who have passion for raising awareness about social justice issues, breaking stereotypes about people and the city of Detroit and actively creating a movement for social change by engaging in service learning, should apply to the planning team and become DP leaders.

The DP Planning Team is an enthusiastic group of 50 people with a common goal: Spread love for the city of Detroit through service learning. In addition to planning major events such as the One Stop Shop food and clothing drive and DP Day, team members organize educational events, publicity, finance and weekly volunteer programs throughout the school year. Applicants don’t have to be “Detroit experts” to be on the team, they just have to be willing to open their eyes, minds and hearts to Detroit. In the process, The DP hopes members will learn just as much about themselves as they will learn about Detroit — and that they’ll have fun with DP planning teammates along the way.

So volunteer for a weekly program next fall, visit an education event or apply to the planning team at Planning Team Applications are now available on the website. Please submit them by Sunday, April 10 at 5 p.m.

Cassie Basler is the Detroit Partnership External Director.

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