University of Detroit Mercy freshmen kicked off their college careers by performing a day of service work throughout Detroit on Aug. 21-22.
Students split in two groups and worked in the Fitzgerald neighborhood, just west of the University’s McNichols Campus, and assisted several Detroit-area neighborhood gardens and farms.
The annual tradition is part of Prologues, Transitions and Viewpoints (PTV), Detroit Mercy’s orientation program. The service portion of PTV introduces incoming Detroit Mercy students to service learning and reinforces the mission of the University.
Community members and Detroit Mercy faculty, staff and alumni worked in partnership during PTV to clean up the neighborhood and help with special community projects.
Over 350 Detroit Mercy students and over 70 volunteers — alumni, staff and faculty — joined forces during PTV.
“We want to give students a great education, but also help them consider how they will use the great education they are receiving,” said Tim Hipskind, S.J., director of service-learning for Detroit Mercy’s Institute for Leadership & Service. “We see there is much more to life than making a lot of money. Our education and all that we gain from it must serve a higher purpose, which is the common good, the good of the communities in which we live and work, especially communities that lack resources offered to other communities.”
Detroit Mercy students and volunteers worked in the Fitzgerald neighborhood and at Gesu Catholic School in northwest Detroit on Aug. 21. They aided several neighborhood gardens and farms in Detroit on Aug. 22 through the University’s Campus Kitchen, a program that provides students with opportunities to promote equity and sustainability in the food system.
In the Fitzgerald neighborhood, students and volunteers cleared lots, yards and parks, removed trash and aided Brilliant Detroit and Maggie Lee’s Community Center with various projects. Since 2017, the Fitzgerald neighborhood has experienced a number of revitalization efforts through the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project, a $4-million initiative led by the city of Detroit to restore the neighborhood.
Detroit Mercy alumnus Donald Middleton ’02 flew from Los Angeles to volunteer because of his love for Detroit and the importance he places on giving back to the community.
Middleton and a group of Detroit Mercy students provided yard work for a house in the Fitzgerald neighborhood.
“I feel Detroit is in good hands with the leadership that’s coming behind me and the energy from these young people,” Middleton said. “I told them before we came out here, ‘There’s nothing greater than serving, because it makes you appreciate what you have and where you are in life. There’s always someone who can use a hand.’ ”
The Campus Kitchen portion of the service work allowed students and volunteers to provide maintenance for Detroit-area gardens, farms and parks.
Freshman Julie Burgess was one of several students who assisted JB’s Urban Farm with gardening projects.
“As a student coming into the University, it means a lot to me to be able to help the community,” she said. “It is part of God’s natural world. It’s our responsibility to take action as students and come together with all of our different strengths, talents and faiths to help the city grow.”
Detroit Mercy Orientation Leader Ben Westphal described the service work as a “transformative experience” for incoming students.
“I think it really proves to them how Detroit, along with our surrounding areas, are growing and revitalizing with the contributions we make to the community,” Westphal said. “The work that the students, faculty and staff are doing during PTV and throughout the entire year is what will help us build a strong relationship with our community, while helping the area rise up.”
Several businesses, nonprofit organizations and Detroit Mercy alumni helped make this service event possible through collaborations, equipment and volunteers.
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