Earlier this month, I was given the opportunity to assist Todd Burlingham at a community conference in Detroit. Although I spent 19 years growing up less than an hour away from Detroit, I hadn't really experienced the city of Detroit inside of a classroom. Two different groups of about 30 high school students in Detroit came to our presentation to participate in leadership activities through our organization. My experience facilitating and engaging with some of these students was eye opening in a way that has helped me understand my surroundings better. It was also unique in that it gave me awareness of diversity that will assist me when I become a certified educator.
Although I have presented at several conferences involving many different schools, this one differed from the rest in that it was in a city that has experienced recent downfalls in education. One student in specific made it very clear to me that the situation was nowhere near up to par. When asked who inspires him, he responded that his father motivates him to study as much as possible so that he can get a good job away from the city, start a family, and raise children that do not have to go through schooling in Detroit.
Though the education system may not be the greatest in Detroit, the most interesting part of this experience was that these students still maintained an optimistic attitude that was not anticipated. Students such as the one that spoke about his inspirations feel lucky to live in Detroit because it offers them great motivation to lead a better life. Not only was I impressed by their positive attitude through long term goals, but I was also amazed at their interest in the here and now and how they did not take a single part of our presentation for granted. They actively participated in the activities through friendliness and creativity that stood out to me more than any other group I have ever facilitated.
I learned a very valuable lesson through these students that day that I would like to extend to those of you reading this. Everyone has a different surrounding, a different atmosphere. Some are more developed than others while others struggle to survive. It was enlightening to see that even in an atmosphere that is not the greatest, something can always be pulled out of nothing, Open your eyes and take advantage of whatever your surroundings may offer. And in some cases, an atmosphere that seems to have little to give is the one that ends up offering the most.
--Posted by Michael Nafso
University of Michigan