Youth Advisory Council Detroit Trip: Exploring Creativity and Careers

Above: The students and chaperones on the 2014 Detroit Trip.; Trip participant Toni Dixon takes a wildflower back from Michigan Central Station.

The Youth Advisory Council, our eleven intrepid students from 15-21, takes an annual trip to visit colleges and discover the history of a place they may never have been before. This year: Detroit and the youth came ready to experience all the city had to offer: art, culture, education, and just a little bit of bowling.

Todd Palmer, NPHM’s Interim Director, Daniel Ronan, the Sites Project and Outreach Coordinator, Maria Sopena, a resident leader and the mother of one of the YACers, and I, the Programs and Development Associate, went along for the ride. This trip was also a major planning project for our summer interns, Salyndrea Jones and Savannah Wright.
Our train to Detroit arrived late, but yielded more time to complain about homework, sample the latest video games, and discover that a card game like War might take the entire trip to finally declare a winner, the YAC’s own Shakira Johnson. We were ready for sleep when it came and hoping to be ready for all we would see that weekend.
Our Saturday morning started with a colorful bus waiting to take us around what was a new city for most of the YAC. The Detroit Bus Company, a small business dedicated to reusing former school buses, exemplified what we hoped for the trip: what had been and what could be.

What will be for many of the YAC next year is college, and our first stop that morning was the College for Creative Studies where a few of our YACers, Ture Champion, Destin Sopena, and Adam Vscheransky saw ways that their natural curiosity and creativity might one day be a career path.
It was a day of creative study. First, an unplanned detour to the Heidelberg Project, blocks of outdoor art on Detroit’s east side created by artist Tyree Guyton in 1986, where some of the youth lingered over the art and some found the use of abandoned stuffed animals and shoes as part of the art as sad, but all signed their names to the house that visitors sign.

Later, the youth would visit Detroit Institute of Art and get their minds around what exactly Diego Rivera had been up to with his WPA mural and a tour of the Motown Museum, where lots of YACers remembered this song and that song because their mothers and grandmothers had played them so often. We ended the day with food and walking and more walking. Too much walking, they all said, and the day was finally done.
Our Sunday was as a Sunday should be, leisurely. We had breakfast and got on our bus to see some of Detroit’s Wayne State. But, there were more important site for the YACers to see they said: like Eminem’s 8 Mile. “They do know it’s just a street?” our bus driver asked. They did and they did take pictures.

There was lunch and vintage shopping at Detroit’s historic Eastern Market and at the very end of the day, there was bowling. But, that last day, though Detroit’s abandoned buildings weren’t the focus of our time there, destruction could also lead to creativity and so we saw old abandoned plants, houses half torn down, and Detroit’s beautiful and abandoned Michigan Central Station.
Toni Dixon, one of the YAC’s seniors, wanted to remember more than just the abandoned buildings and picked up a flower growing just outside of the chain link fence surrounding the train station. She mentioned the need to take a bit of the beauty back home with her to remember Detroit. As we all did.

by Camille Acker, the Programs and Development Associate of the NPHM