With the focus on fun on a sunny afternoon this past April, about 40 youngsters from the Latino Mission Society in Detroit clambered off a bus on Belle Isle to meet about 25 students from Michigan State Hillel for a “play date.” The group spent about three hours in the park together, building connections, building memories and strengthening their ties to the city.
A ground-breaking initiative
The field day was all a part of a ground-breaking pilot initiative called Destination Detroit-Building Bridges launched by the Lester and Jewell Morris Hillel Jewish Student Center at Michigan State University. Focused on creating relationships among diverse student groups, Destination Detroit–Building Bridges brings together leaders from nine student organizations to participate in meaningful service work with the youth of Detroit. Participants include the Jewish Student Union, Black Student Alliance, Alliance of Queer and Ally Students, Arab Cultural Society, Culturas de las Razas Unidas, Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions, Asian Pacific American Student Organization, Honors College Student Advisory Council and the MSU Campus Interfaith Council.
Partnering in the “D”
Partnering with another student program entitled Summer in the City, Destination Detroit-Building Bridges brings students to the “D” not only to participate in community service work, but also to build relationships between one another. By building relationships, participants in the program gain an understanding and appreciation for their differences and similarities. This pilot initiative also shines a light on other exciting projects carried on by young people with the purpose of reinvigorating the city of Detroit.
In addition to the trip to Belle Isle with the Latino Mission Society, some of the service work this semester included a field day for students at Glazer Elementary School. Beyond working with Detroit youth, MSU students also toured Downtown and Southwest Detroit and met with key community organizers and entrepreneurs.
Getting more involved
Commenting on the program, one of MSU Hillel’s student leaders, Sam Appel, said “Destination Detroit—Building Bridges was an amazing experience that gave me the ability to get to know Detroit, see everything it has to offer, and participate in rewarding service work. Along with my co-participants, I’m excited to continue this important initiative next year.”
For some participants, Destination Detroit-Building Bridges was their first time in the city, for others it was home. Most importantly, everyone left this initiative feeling a little bit closer to D-town and to one another.
Summing up the day in Detroit, Mark Doebler, an MSU senior, stated, “I think getting more people directly involved in experiences like Destination Detroit is crucial for students. There’s so much to learn here.”
Destination Detroit-Building Bridges is looking for financial partners for next year to continue this important work. For more information, contact MSU Hillel Executive Director, Cindy Hughey, at 517.332.1916 or firstname.lastname@example.org