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February 15, 2002 - Image 10

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-02-15

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, February 15, 2002

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FRIDAY Focus

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BY KAREN SCHWARTZ
,DAILY STAFF REPORTER
DETROIT - Nine-year old Jorge Cortez knows that when the volunteers come to
his elementary school it is time to roll out the carton of games. They match blue fish
with alphabet letters on them and play purple hippo number games to practice theira
alphabet, math skills and word association.
"I like the people who come to play with us. We play a lot of games - you get to 1
put the letters on the ABC like this,' he said proudly, sticking yet another blue fish on
the correct letter.
Cortez and other students at Logan Elementary School in Detroit are working in j
small groups and receiving individual attention they might not otherwise receive thanks
to University volunteers who travel to the school once a week to help out.
Logan Elementary is one of several sites in Detroit that hosts volunteers on a reg-
ular basis. Volunteers also travel to after-school programs and other local schools to 1
work with students.
For LSA freshman Christen Johnson, working with kids in math games and read-i
ing is her way of giving back to the community she grew up in. This is Johnson's
second semester making the drive from Ann Arbor to Detroit once a week to work at1
Logan as part of the University's Lives of Urban Children and Youth Program.
Currently 18 University students are involved in the Michigan Community Schol-

Jorge Cortez plays a word association game.

ars LUCY program, which is in its pilot year. The initiativeis designed to give stu-
dents the chance to have firsthand experience debunking myths and coming up with
their own sense of the strengths and weaknesses of Detroit communities, LUCY pro-
gram associate Jen Denzin said.
She added that the program is designed to give students the chance to explore the
possibility of becoming permanently involved in one of these communities.
"We're hoping to continue the program, and currently some of our students are
thinking of getting into the School of Education," she said.
"We'd like to allow students to do student teaching at the same sites where they
volunteer, so they build a long lasting partnerships with th community and hope-
fully become a part of that community."
Johnson, who chose to volunteer at Logan after hearing in her LUCY sociology
class that the school needed patient teachers, said she enjoys working with stu-
dents who are learning English as their second language and helping them
become more comfortable reading and writing in English.
"It's really easy for kids to fall through the cracks if they don't have someone help-
ing them out, so I'm the helper," she said.
Johnson said she has found that kids are the same regardless of if they grew up in
the city or the suburbs - that they all just want to play and learn. She added that she
feels honored to be a role model for the kids who look up to her as an adult.
"You never really know how much these kids are looking up to you or what kind of
esteem they have for you, but to know they look up
to me the same way they look up to a teacher, it
makes me realize how much of an influence I have
on them. I'm not just another kid," she said.
Johnson also stressed the importance of Uni-
versity students being willing to volunteer in the
schools and not making assumptions about the
kids or the city.
She noted that she knows people whose parents
do not want them going into the city out of fear,
but said she feels that fear is based on misconcep-
tions and negative perceptions passed on from
parents and portrayed by the media.
"The stereotypes people have about Detroit
are because everyone thinks (people from
Detroit) are lazy and ignorant - on TV you see
guns, shooting, gangs, dilapidated houses,
burnout and corruption," she said:
"It's not all like that - there aren't drug hous-
es on every corner and parents do care about
their kids."
LSA freshman Rebecca Reasey, who is also
from the Detroit area, volunteers at Logan Ele-
mentary and wants to work in the Detroit School
District when she graduates. She said to her
BRENDAN 0 DONNELL/Daily Detroit is not the "bad place" people stereotype it
as, but rather a city full of culture and an excel-
lent place to grow up.
She said she would encourage other Universi-
ty students to put aside their fears and see what
the city is "really" about.
"People here are really friendly. It's not like
we're dodging bullets every time we come here.
It's just another city, I don't think it's a big deal,"
Reasey said. "Instead of being an outsider you
actually get to see what they're faced with. You
see the situations behind the problems, like why
kids would turn to gangs or violence."
She added that volunteers are especially
on Lprio M hi an paretL- t important in helping to resolve language issues
na attached to it - it is seen for students who learn English at school but do
not speak it at home. She said she feels volun-
da.teers give students help they could not receive at
'Detroit's teen anid adult ~pop- home because of the language barrier.
ple in general -and children Reasey works with Logan teacher Debi
Khasnabis, a 1999 University alum.
Khasnabis said that while there are many
re is merit in being ay problems beyond the capabilities of volunteers,
re is a diffeence eween a University students do make a large contribution
izenis are not hopelesswhen they are used properly in classrooms. She
said her four volunteers have their time tied up
Detroit public schools never helping the highest need students but that there
T d m fare many kids who could use a lot more help
ind the audience is bereft of than they are getting.
SWould think that Detroi-The College of Literature, Science and the Arts
also offers students the chance to get involved in
the imupression that Detroit hasDetroit through Project Community, an academic
st graders Waiting to go into service learning course that has been sending stu-
dents to Detroit sites for over 15 years.
s eThis semester students have the opportunity
ids operate. "Kids are just not only to tutor or mentor but also to get
be seen in the clattering of involved with a Detroit grassroots community
anid you realize that the samneorganization that is setting up a community gar-
den to teach elementary school students about
agriculture.
School of Social Work student Bree Kessler
in Detroit. The oily imetie went to Project Community to start a class around
l ppe ed ethe community garden project and said the class
has now also become a student group to allow stu-
ey are not social devi s dents outside of the class to participate.
As the student facilitator for this site, she said
types of "that fearsome city"? the project is already contributing to the commu-
mit that the American mantra nity and has thus far been incredibly rewarding
Skids." One or the othe is for both University students and the community.
i f"I think it's important to link the University
with the greater community," she said. "It's like
git that our edcation oens a living classroom - it empowers students to

sIIb e make other changes on our campus and in gen-
eral, because we're really creating something
from nothing. Six weeks ago we had 'nothing
get-go becadise, that wayand now at the end of every week we have
something to show for it."

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