OffMarket – Detroit, Michigan

By Jacob Behrmann

After interning in the City of Detroit for the last two summers, I knew that I wanted to pursue an idea that allowed me to continue similar work in the City, the Barger Leadership Institute (BLI) Small Grant has allowed my group and I to do just this.

Our project, OffMarket, centered around building software that would scrape data off of the internet to identify distressed properties in the City of Detroit that may be attractive to either non-profit or for-profit entities. Our hope is that these entities would then use the software to acquire and redevelop these distressed properties to increase positive property density in Detroit.

The experience BLI helped to facilitate affected my view of leadership by creating new ideas such as leadership is a multifaceted platform where there can be multiple leaders. For example, our project team consisted of two other University of Michigan students, we had to agree upon decisions and come to mutual agreements on how to successfully proceed. Through this open communication channel, we knew regardless of who made the end decision, we could always share our thoughts.

This is experience helped me grow as a leader in numerous ways. One of these ways was interacting with different stakeholders for our project. To progress on our project, we hired a Computer Science Engineer at UM. We had to diligently work with him during our weekly meetings. I was able to grow as a leader because I learned new ways to communicate successfully with people who were part of the project, and also effectively lead others to have a successful outcome.

Leadership and teamwork go hand in hand. It does not matter if there is one project leader and many participants, or the group has all project leaders, everyone must always work together. This was a common theme throughout our summer project. We constantly stressed teamwork. We did this by always having an open channel of communication to share any idea, creating a sense of community/teamwork for our contractor, and also understanding everyone’s responsibilities.

Our group is thankful for the opportunity the Barger Leadership Institute awarded us and plan to continue pursuing projects in the City of Detroit.

WeRead – Detroit, MI

The students are all seated in their assigned groups, patiently awaiting our arrival. When we walk in the classroom we are stunned. Everyone is where they need to be and they are on time. It’s a strange feeling to walk into the calmness rather than the chaos that normally categorizes our Friday afternoons at Mark Twain. But, it’s quite wonderful to find out that after all the stress of trying to organize classrooms and communicate with teachers over the course of the year, our efforts appear to be moving in a positive direction.

One of the biggest challenges that WeRead as an organization faces is communication with the school administration with Mark Twain. Because of high staff turnover, we rarely see the same teachers, principal and vice principal year after year. In the three years that I have been part of this organization, there has been a new principal each year. We must form a new relationship and establish the credibility of our organization with each person. The lack of communication between the administration and teachers also inhibits our effectiveness, although it is something that is mostly out of our control. In the beginning of the year, one of the board members would email the administration each week to remind them we would indeed be arriving on Friday afternoon to work with the kids. However, this often led to miscommunications with the classrooms because the administration would not always inform the teachers of our confirmation. This led to challenges because sometime we would show up to the school and the students would be on a field trip or would be in a classroom different than what they told us, and it would end up wasting our times and theirs. One way we attempted to change this problem was by talking to the teachers in person as well as including them in our weekly emails. The emails helped to ensure that the class would indeed be at the school that day and would not be on a field trip or didn’t have a day off. By talking to the teachers, we were able to smooth out classroom location. For example, in the 5th grade classroom, the students tended to be late because they were coming from their science class. After talking to their teacher, Ms. Brandon, we brought up the issue and resolved to meet the students in their homeroom, because it was closer to their science classroom. These small problems emphasized the importance of communication and honesty. We had to find ways to talk with the teachers and administration and let them know the challenges that we were encountering. It ended up paying off though, as we finally had a smooth arrival at the end of the year.

As many a WeRead participant will attest, we do what we do “for the kids,”. The chaos, time and energy put into our organization is all worth it when we walk into the classroom Friday afternoon and are welcomed with cheers and smiling faces. We are able to continue what we do thanks to the generous funding provided by groups such as the Barger Leadership Institute.

Michigan Performance Outreach Workshop – Ann Arbor, MI

Our Mission
The Michigan Performance Outreach Workshop (MPOW) is a student organization at the University of Michigan dedicated to sharing the positive powers of the performing arts to inspire youth in Detroit. Through arts-­‐based collaboration, MPOW provides a mutually beneficial environment: University students can exercise creative leadership skills in an educational outreach setting; while Detroit Public School students explore possibilities in higher education by building relationships to the University and its students at large. MPOW hopes to foster creative expression, build self-­‐esteem, and strengthen the community.

The Workshop Event
Each semester, MPOW creates a one-­‐day program that exposes Detroit Pubic School students to a diverse array of performing arts. The event includes performances by University of Michigan students, a healthy lunch, and hands-­‐on workshops in collaboration with university students. The event is cost-­‐free for participating Detroit Public Schools.

This fall semester, MPOW presented its sixth bi-­annual workshop event on Friday, April 4th, 2014. Participating schools included Mark Twain Elementary in Southwest, Noble Elementary-­‐Middle School, Rutherford Winans Academy, and A.L. Holmes Elementary on the East side. For this event, MPOW hosted…

  • 160 Detroit Public Schools students
  • 50 Group Leaders
  • 30 Workshop Leaders

MPOW always strives to include students all across campus. This year, volunteers hailed from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Engineering, LSA, Ross School of Business, and the Penny Stamps School of Art & Design.
Even some non-­‐university volunteers joined the fun!

As always, Detroit Public Schools students were greeted by a wide variety of musical and theatrical performances. In an effort to showcase an array of performing arts, MPOW presented 12 diverse acts by students from across campus. Performances included FunKtion, Disney character impressions, Rhythm Tap, Amazin’ Blue, electronic hip-­‐hop music, the Vencedores, and a silly piano performance by our beloved clowns.

After watching an energizing performance, the students participated in 3 distinct workshops. This semester, our workshops included dance, improvisation, a cappella, vocal percussion, original theatre, electronic beat-­‐making, Brazilian drumming, and film.

This semester, MPOW included a 10-­‐ minute reflection period at the end of the day. During this reflection, Group Leaders led the elementary students
through a series of questions designed to make the students think deeper about their experience. When asked if they would change anything about the event, many students replied, “I would make it longer.”

Expanding Programming and Sustainability
MPOW was once a group of students planning a single-­‐day event. Now, we are a full-­‐fledged student organization! While MPOW still host its bi-­‐annual event in Ann Arbor, we now manage ACTING OUT!, an outreach theatre troupe that performs in Detroit Public Schools. In addition, MPOW runs a weekly theatre workshop with students at Detroit School of the Arts. By engaging Detroit students in the performing arts on a regular basis, they have the opportunity to further develop their own creative purpose. Now in its third year, the MPOW event is a staple in many SMTD students’ college experience. We hope they catch the “outreach bug” and join our weekly programming in the future.

If you would like to help support MPOW or learn more about our programs, please e-­‐mail contactmpow@gmail.com.