Wayne County Community College District
1001 W. Fort st
Detroit, MI 48226
How I got started on my epic adventure was by the humblest of means. I was furious with the educational systems in Michigan, in America! Since I am a resident of Detroit, Michigan, I will primarily focus on that area as well as others. I say education is a taboo subject because it seems to be getting non-existent in the city of Detroit. If anyone speaks a word a word of the issue they are immediately quieted by promises of the one billion dollar “Save Detroit Schools” plan. How do they expect to accomplish this feat? They will implement a plan to close down forty five Detroit public schools over the next five years. How is this plan to save education effective? Where will the dislocated children, teachers, and staff go? Not only will Detroit students be losing teachers, but educators, will lose jobs as well. I did not want to stand by and watch the destruction and mayhem unfolds before my eyes without, at least, putting in a helping hand.
I have five younger siblings that are currently educated in the Detroit school system. What will they do if the latter of the school’s closed down? The classrooms are already over populated. The teachers are already short-staffed on assistants; so schools are even short-staffed on educators! I decided I didn’t want my siblings pushed through the system, by some over-pressured teacher with over forty children in her class without the help of a teacher’s aide. I began to volunteer at my siblings schools.
When I made the critical decision to volunteer at Detroit public schools…that was nearly two years ago. My younger siblings, Faith and Frederick, were just starting Kindergarten and I didn’t want their education to begin with another teacher just trying to pass her class because the work was too overbearing. I began to come to their school every Tuesday and Wednesday morning straight from working a 10pm-6am work schedule. After I saw what a difference I was making and how the teachers were responding in a positive manner—they talked to the principal about starting a program to get more parents and guardians like me involved—I felt that I could do more than just stay local.
After I researched a couple of programs, I came across AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). This is a government funded public service program where I not only receive official training in education, but disaster relief, environment, public safety as well as unmet needs training. Also, after joining the program, I had the opportunity to become a certified worker for the American Red Cross and FEMA, receiving training in CPR, First Aid, and Shelter/Case Management. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to be trained in Forestry and Wildlife Services and to become a Wild land TypeII Firefighter! Talk about epic.
Figure 1: My AmeriCorps Team
On my epic journey with NCCC, I first started work in New Orleans, Louisiana working with Rebuilding Together New Orleans, Habitat for Humanity and FEMA, rebuilding or saving houses that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. We went into many schools that were still left standing, without too much damage, and did mold remediation.
Figure 2: Mold Remediation
We also salvaged a lot of doors, windows, and chalk boards that were not too affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. We reconstructed housed that were not too damaged by the hurricane.
Figure 3: Damage Assessment/ Reconstruction
We tried to keep as many houses that were left standing in their original condition. We repainted, preserved flooring, ceilings, and doors.
Figure 4: Painting/ Remodeling
We also installed new bathrooms, kitchens, doors, closets, etc. Furthermore, with Habitat, we built houses from scratch. We started with putting them on six feet support blocks because this would prevent damage from any future flooding.
Figure 5: Rebuilding from Scratch
Secondly, I worked with a Nature Conservancy in Owings Mills, Maryland and for an African American Cemetery outside of Asheville, North Carolina; using my skills in environment protection.
Figure 6: Firefighting/ Nature Conservancy
Thirdly, I worked as the Gulf Community Relations Liaison as a representative for the AmeriCorps NCCC Atlantic Region. I would have much communication with local communities and non profits who were interested in the help AmeriCorps NCCC could give.
Fourthly, I worked in and around the state of Maryland working with a division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services; putting to test my skills as a TypeII Wild land Firefighter.
Figure 7: Firefighting
Lastly, as my last few months in NCCC, I came across another situation that was similar to the one back home: the education system in Fort Myers, Florida.
Although this system was not deteriorating as rapidly as Detroit’s educational system, I saw the same distress in the teachers: they were overworked, underpaid, and close to carrying a frivolous attitude about the children’s education. The classrooms were on overload, where the teachers did not have aides or any other outside assistance. When my team from NCCC was placed in a couple of the Lee County public schools, we were able to give the help that was much needed. Although we only stayed for seven weeks, we promoted many programs that would soon help the teachers.
Figure 8: Education in Lee County Public Schools
Instead of the teachers trying to teach a mass of students that were on different learning levels, we advised it would be best to teach them on separate levels at different times of the day. For instance, one part of the class could be learning orally, teacher-to-student, while the other could utilize the computer programs that were installed in the classroom; all the while, all the students are learning the same subject, just at a different pace. We also advised that to separate children of different learning levels did not mean they would have to be on different sides of the rooms, but maybe just at color coded tables (with only the teacher knowing which color was for with level).
I felt that I was finally beginning to understand that it takes more than just complaining about the issue or being taboo about the problem. Although I did not have a plan, I felt that I had to start somewhere. That start was local. I went to volunteer at my siblings’ school because I did not like the turn their education was taking. That one day of volunteering turned into two years! After I saw the fruits of my labor, I decided I could do more than just make a stationary difference. I wanted to make a domestic difference; I wanted to make a difference in other parts of the nation, which led me to AmeriCorps NCCC. Although, initially, I did not have a plan or even a hope, but I had a will and determination to get something done. I will to get something done about the school systems of Michigan; something done about the education in America.
Education is the core of the world. Without it, humanity would be lost and misguided. And I believe everything must be corrected at the beginning if there is to be a means to an end. If we don’t correct the wrongdoings of institutions in certain areas of our government, in the beginning, then they will never be truly able to function towards the end. And a prime example of that is the education system of America today; chiefly the Detroit Public Schools. And even though education was the drive behind my decision to be active in public service, I wound up helping in many areas of unmet needs! What started out as a crusade against the wrong doings in the city of Detroit, led to a nationwide correction of many inequalities. I made a difference without having a plan, but, unknowingly, the plan is the fact that you want to make a difference in the first place.
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