More than 1,000 students gathered in Detroit this weekend to
make a visible difference in one of the city’s rundown
communities in only one day.

The Detroit Project, which culminated in Saturday’s DP
Day, offers students a unique opportunity to devote as much time as
one day a week or as little as one day a year, working with other
nonprofit community organizations to clean and beautify the
Brightmoor neighborhood in northwest Detroit.

Brightmoor, a community founded by Henry Ford in the 1900s, has
suffered the consequences of the loss of auto industry jobs.
According to the 1990 census, 44 percent of all residents and 60
percent of children live below poverty level.

DP Day is intended not only to enable students with little time
to make a meaningful contribution, but also to unite the Brightmoor
community and volunteers in celebrating the accomplishments of the
year.

“We were extremely selective with our sites this year. We
tried to find sites that would give our volunteers a full and
satisfying day. (They) seemed really happy with what they were
doing and it seemed like a really good experience,” DP
External Director Kristen Hewell said.

Special events at the end of the day included a rally in
Detroit’s Stoepel Park, featuring two poetry slammers and
keynote speaker Eleanor Josaitis, co-founder and chief executive
officer of Focus: HOPE. Focus: HOPE is a Detroit-based civil and
human rights organization.

“We really tried to have an educational focus for our
volunteers to learn something about Detroit in addition to
volunteering,” said Hewell, an LSA senior.

DP Day looks to attract volunteers with varying interests and
talents by offering a wide variety of jobs. Planting trees and
flowers, painting murals, building playgrounds, tutoring children
and picking up trash are among the options.

“I was doing landscaping and yard clean up. … It
was a great day because we actually worked alongside the residents.
It was nice to see how appreciative and helpful they were in
turning around their neighborhood and in trying to keep it
clean,” said LSA senior Kaitlin Murphy, a first-time site
leader.

Many students said they were drawn to the DP by the visible
results of their work — the appreciation of the community
members elicited by the transformation of a littered and run-down
park, for example, is enough to keep them coming back.

“When I first heard about DP Day, I thought, ‘What
can we do in only one day that’s (going to) make a
difference?’ But at our site specifically it was a mess, and
when we left it looked amazing. It makes me think that we can
really make a difference,” said LSA sophomore Aisha Jukaku, a
site director. “It is such an amazing opportunity, and I plan
on getting involved in their weekly projects as well.”

Weekly activities include mentoring neighborhood children and
teaching them computer skills.

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