Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gratefully Empowered and Hopeful

         It is extremely hard for me to communicate how much I have gained from the experience of serving the city of Detroit to those who have not witnessed first hand the hope it has. Through this entry, I hope I will be able to help give others a better understanding of all that I have obtained  as well as shedding the light on the improving city. My goal for this experience was to see, first hand, what the media disclaims to be true that Detroit is on the uphill march of improving itself. I definitely achieved it and cannot wait to express it with everyone!

"I didn't come to Detroit to witness the end of an era. I just wanted to find out if there was a future and what would it look like. My conclusion is that it's about people; it’s about empowered."

Corine Vermeulen


After a week of being strapped in an emotional rollercoaster, we spent our last day in Detroit exploring the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) before heading to the airport. It was in this museum I found the best way to express how and why I am empowered and positively changed by this experience. 

Photographer, Corine Vermeulen, captured in both words and pictures the changes in Detroit displayed in the Detroit Walk-in Portrait Studio of the DIA. The quote above was on the wall once you enter the doors and before you continue on to view the people of Detroit. I found this quote very impactful and meaningful to not only my journey, but I am sure my fellow ASBers. Trip leader, Amy Jones, mentioned earlier in the week Detroit is our neighbor and we are some of the many volunteers serving the community of our neighbors to improve itself. Before our trip, many people did not understand why we were going to Detroit claiming it is just falling apart and is unsafe. This trip is about service and while we were serving we witnessed the community bettering itself. The proof of the city preparing for its future began once we headed to our temporary home. As we were driving, we were rerouted, lines were merging due to construction, but as LaDonna pointed out we should not be upset by these measly orange construction cones because it is proof Detroit is making changes of improvement.

Our first full day in Detroit was our culture day. We began our day of exploration at the Henry Ford Museum where my impactful journey began. In the museum, was the actual Rosa Parks bus. Explaining this important piece of history was tour guide Ryan.  During this brief explanation of history, Ryan emphasized the importance of people in order to make a change in our world. According to him, which I agree with, if it were not for the average Joes of the world supporting and working with the famous people of movements, the iconic people would not be famous. I connected his thoughts back to our work in Detroit. We are the average Joes who are participating in the larger movement of improving Detroit, helping our neighbors.

Throughout the week, we met some very impactful people who made the experience of Detroit even more influential. These people who are full of gratitude, appreciation and ambition confirmed why we worked in Detroit, there is so much hope left in this city. Vermeulen summed up what I learned from all the experiences and the people I have encountered regarding the importance of people serving others for the betterment of the community in her quote about Detroit.  I am so happy, proud, and beyond GRATEFUL to say we, as a group, experienced this hope of the future the city is creating for itself!


Thank you Detroit for empowering me to challenge and further discover myself through service! You will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Victoria Gibbs
Class of 2018



Friday, March 20, 2015

My Ah-Ha Moment

     My Alternative Spring Break experience has been so immensely powerful. This week has given all of us something which we will never be able to put into words, and something that will remain a part of us forever. I have had such vastly different experiences each day, and every experience has taught me a new lesson about Detroit, America, service, and myself. The first day I associate with the image of Detroit. I was shocked by the amount of trash, and I will never forget noticing the abandoned homes. I felt like I was a part of an apocalypse. We had breakfast for the first time at a shelter and I am ashamed to admit this, but it was disgusting. I wondered how I was going to eat this all week long, and then it dawned on me that this is what some people eat all life long. Even though I found the food disappointing and horrible, I enjoyed hating it because it put other people's reality in perspective for me. That day we talked with a woman named Ms. Bray at a women's shelter and she spoke with us about the situations that young girls are placed in, and how important it is for all of us to appreciate our parents and our home lives. At this point on the trip, I appreciated her message, but I honestly felt pretty confident that I already embodied this appreciation.
     The next day was extremely frustrating. I was doing tasks that I found unimportant and I felt as though the time I was prepared to give was being wasted. However, during debrief Amy Jones helped me to realize that the small things do matter. Even though I was doing a task that I felt was unhelpful, it was helpful to the person who makes a difference in her job. I may have disagreed, but that's okay, and I need to remember that helping her is a way of helping the homeless. Additionally, I made the connection that our purpose of being here is not to change the world by organizing closets and cleaning kitchens. Our purpose is to show Detroit that they matter. To show Detroit that they have not been forgotten, and that we care about them. Giving Detroit this message can hopefully boost their moral, and continue to remind them of the amazing change taking place. More importantly, by spending time here, we are all showing our communities at home that Detroit is important and that it is essential for us to help members of our nation. LaDonna empowered me to be an advocate of service and to spread the word back at home why we should all lend a hand and get involved.
     The third day was my favorite day. At this point on the trip, I was feeling down and confused as to why. This day was very fun and positive for me. I was able to connect one on one with different people volunteering and staying at the men's shelter, while also painting which was a fun task. I felt good making a physical difference while also making connections with people. On this day, I learned how the little things can be more impacting than I first realized. These people work so hard all day long, that they don't have time to paint the lunch room. It felt great that we were able to come and put the time in when they are unable to.
     On Thursday, I came to realize more about treating homeless people like real humans, because they are. A homeless person is no different from anyone else, and anyone could fall into homelessness. I talked to multiple people at lunch who shared that they became homeless during the recession after they lost their job. Also, a man named Ed talked to us about donations that they are given. Often times, people donate old, tattered clothing with stains. I had this mindset before the trip that a stained shirt is better than no shirt. But Ed put it into perspective to me what it would feel like to wear that stained shirt. What does that do to a person's heart and mind? What will they begin to think of their self-worth? I now see that donations should be quality, because these are quality people. The highlight of the day was meeting a wonderful man named Robert. Robert recently moved into permanent housing and not only shared his story with us, but showed us his room. Robert really touched me because he was so genuinely proud of his accomplishment in attaining permanent housing. This success story gives me hope for so many others who are in a bad place.
     Today was my ah-ha moment day. The morning was fun, I spent time in the kitchen and danced with Caitlin and George. However my ah-ha moment didn't happen until later. In the afternoon the entire group went to an abandoned house and our task was to board it up. My task was to pick up trash outside of the home and to throw it in. The house had been burned and it was left in shambles. I began thinking about someone very important to me who recently abandoned their home and I couldn't help but think about the state of their home. You wonder what brings a person to this point where they need to leave their home behind, and it makes you so sad. It is even sadder to think that the house is then disrespected and neglected by the community. You have to wonder what happened to the people who once lived in the home, and what their life is like now. I became very overcome with sadness. I went behind the house to gather my emotions when I saw my best friend Kaylee. When I saw her I started crying and she put her arms around me, protecting me from the sadness that had taken over. She comforted me for a long time while I just let myself feel the grief. Then Kaylee began telling me to think of Robert. Robert who touched me so much with his kindness and success. She reminded me to think of Robert and that there are other people like Robert who do succeed and get help. Then she said something that I will never forget. Kaylee told me that we are the fight. We are the fight against poverty. This was my ah-ha moment. I finally realized that even though what happened in Detroit and what happens all over the world is horrible, that we are helping to make a change. Even though our small group will not change Detroit or the world in this one week, we are helping the movement to do so. I feel really empowered that I am a part of this movement, and that my contribution goes beyond this week. I will continue to make a difference by advocating for service and for poverty. Later in the evening, one of my most influential role models, Tori Dost said something that contributed to my ah-ha moment. She talked about how today we each picked up one stick and doing that one small action cleared a lawn and made it better. By making a small action toward a big problem, we are picking up one stick that is a part of the nation. There are other Alternative Spring Breaks and other ways to make a small difference, which can create a big one. She made me feel like I really have the power to help make this difference in the world. I was first shaken by the current state of Detroit, but now I feel immense hope for the future, and I am excited to see the positive change to come.

A Puzzle Piece in the Puzzle of Change

One Place. One Week. One group. One trip. The old me is gone and the new me is here. I think only twenty six other people will ever be able to understand how I am feeling at this exact moment, and as the many emotions hit us all it is hard to even begin to express them in words. I am with the most amazing group of men and women. Each of you are an intricate piece of this group, and will and already have changed the world as we know it. A wise man a few days ago told me that each decision and action we make impacts others in ways we could never even possibly imagine. What we have done in the last week may seem small, but it is the one post lifted that can change everything. This week we have seen heartbreak and devastation. Abandoned homes, destroyed pieces of land, and hungry bellies fill the streets. In Detroit, being homeless is not the exception, but a sort of culture. It is so common that is no longer unusual but usual. As much as seeing that has broken all our hearts, it also inspires us all. You would think that Detroit would give up. Never try for something that may seem hopeless. I have never met another group of people who are more grateful or happy. For people who have close to nothing, they act like they have everything. We did so little in comparison to what needs to be done yet they act like we are all angels sent from Heaven. Not that I don't agree because these guys are pretty special, but the fact that a simple meal or conversation can make someone's day just shows what inspirational people those who reside in Detroit are. A few weeks ago I didn't think that I would want to venture to Detroit after this trip, but now I know coming back here is no longer a choice but a requirement. As one man told me, Boston is where we are from and will always hold the title of home in our hearts, but Detroit it is now a part of us as well. One part that I would never change for the world. They were right being here was not a coincidence, but an assignment. We were meant to be here, and even if we can not see it we are the change this city and country needs. We are the future, and I know all of you will take this crazy world by storm. Never forget your worth. Never forget to see the light in darkness. And never ever forget to see what we have all felt in this wonderful place by all who inhabit it. Never lose your sense of hope, because in a world of uncertainty and having little control HOPE is the one thing that has and always will get us through this crazy thing called life.

Lots of Love and Thanks,

Michaela Lombardo Class of 2017<3 <3 :) :)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Finding Compassion and Love in Detroit

     Each day of ASB has been this diverse combination of people, stories, service, and experiences. Each day has left my heart fuller, my smile brighter and my ambitions higher. Yet, at the same time I have been on the verge of tears as I'm overcome by emotions. And at this points, it's impossible for me to try to explain or reflect on everything I have seen, heard, and learned in Detroit. Despite all these thoughts that are currently flooding my mind, spending a week in Detroit has given me a huge lesson in compassion and love.

     Everything on ASB has somehow been connected to this wonderful message of compassion and love. When I listen to people at Cass and Detroit Rescue Missions speak, I see how much compassion people are capable of. Some of the stories have shown me compassion within the organizations, and how much they believe in the mission of their organization. Some of our friends at Cass and DRMM have exhibited a strong sense of love towards the homeless population, and welcome everyone with open arms. Green Industries exemplifies how much we need to care about our earth, and how simple it is to do. The Heidelberg project overwhelmed me with compassion for art and beauty, which is incredible given nature of the area. When I attended the church service at Cass, the main thing I saw was how loving people are towards one another and their God. And finally, these amazing 26 other people I am with have proven to be not only compassionate about the work that we are doing and people we are helping, but also the towards each other.

     I am so lucky to be apart of ASB 2015. I know that the few days of volunteering we did in Detroit is  going to teach me more then I could have ever imagined. I am so sad to be leaving Detroit and my fellow ASB-ers but I am inspired to go home with my rekindled attitude of compassion and see what wonderful things we are capable of!

Emily Incledon, Class of 2015

"The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others." - Albert Schweitzer

Detroit will forever be in my heart....

During this trip i have been thinking a lot about my past experiences here in Detroit. I have not been able to quite connect the two trips together but in a sense i feel as though this has been an extension of my past trip. Overall this trip has been very different from my last and it has been very draining but in a good way. I love this city, in the 5 years since I have been here I have always said that if I did not live in Massachusetts then I would want to live in Detroit. My experiences I have had this past week have been amazing. I have met some of most amazing people who will forever have a place in my heart. Today I was with Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries at one of their men's shelters. I was talking with a man named Kenny who had been at the shelter for about 2 weeks. We sat and talked for about 20 minutes and for me it was the best 20 minutes of this trip. He told me about how he ended up in Detroit and how he ended up in this shelter. When we were finishing up our conversation he looked at me and said how he had never talked to someone for so long. He said he was used to listening to people talking and saying very few words and not being the one that was doing all the talking. I was so honored to be that person that he opened up to and shared his story with. He had such a positive attitude even though he was in one of the worst places in his life and I admire him for that. He talked about how he overcame his drug addiction and the temptations that are all around him. He told me that he has found himself and he is looking forward to what is next in his life. 
Talking with people like Kenny throughout this trip has made me really think about myself. All of the people that I have talked are in worse situations than i am but they have better attitudes than i do. After this trip I am challenging myself to looking within myself and be grateful for all i have accomplished. I can get upset over the smallest things, and half the time those things are not even important in the long run. If these people who have nothing can have positive attitudes then i too can have a positive attitude. A piece of me will always remain in Detroit. This city 5 years ago changed my life and 5 years later it has done it again. I will forever be grateful to Detroit for opening my eyes and making me the person who I have become. 

Lauren Donnelly
Class of 2017

Hopeful Changes

There is a strange mix of emotions caught in the people of Detroit. Hope, anger, abandonment, love...
On Monday I had the privilege of speaking with Miss Brey, one of the main workers in the Detroit Rescue Missions Ministry. She works closely with girls aged 14-19 who are either pregnant or have children with absolutely nothing. She helps get them out of their situations as much as she can by providing them with the necessary resources. I asked her what she thought of Detroit and her eyes immediately lit up. She said that if she was asked that five years ago she would say to stay away from Detroit. Get out, it's bad news. But now we are making a comeback, she said. Detroit has hope. There are programs for the homeless. There are businesses opening. We can help Detroit.

Then yesterday I spoke with another worker of Detroit Rescue. He has been staying in one of the men's shelters for a few months and seemed so happy when our crew of volunteers came in to help out. He was vibrant talking to us. I asked him the same question, his opinion about Detroit, and it was a 180 from Miss Brey. "I'm getting out of here," he said. He told us he needs to move to start over where it's better. He's a happy guy, but he thinks Detroit is going nowhere.

Two completely different perspectives. At first I didn't quite know how to process the information. How can these people have lived in the same place, experienced similar things, yet think completely different thoughts. I asked myself... so is Detroit making a comeback? Or will it never get better?
After a lot of reflection, and processing the information not only that I've received but that the other people in ASB have received, I've realized that everyone has a different perspective. And the point is Detroit isn't good or bad. Like anything, there is so much more going on.

Obviously, there still is a problem which warrants some people to think that there will always be a problem. But then there is hope too. People want to help the city.

I've quickly realized how difficult coming home will be. During our meetings throughout the year we've talked about how this trip may be emotionally draining and we may experience culture shock. We learned about the troubles in Detroit. Basically, all of us knew what we were getting ourselves into.
However, it wasn't until I was here that I truly understood what was happening. It wasn't until I experienced this trip that I could understand the purpose.

I can go back home and tell people all I want about what I've experienced in Detroit. But the only way that change will be made is if they experience it, too. They need to come here and help out. I want to help the city. I will encourage others to help the city. Hopefully they will then encourage others to help the city. It's a chain of change and experience. That is the only way I see a true change will be made in Detroit. People need a complete understanding and they will only get that through experience. I do see a bright future for Detroit, but I can't be the only one to see that bright future in order for change to happen.

Class of 2018

I See Your True Colors

A theme I've found throughout this trip has been the contrasts this city has. You look at the roads and see the brand new Fords, Cadillacs, Jeeps and Chryslers, yet there are also a large percentage of cars that are close to inoperability with few cars found in the middle. On the outskirts of the city, we've seen the Ford museum and its promotion of innovation and the wonderful neighborhoods of Gross Point, yet across the street and throughout the city, there are broken down homes and businesses. We've seen the life of a St. Patrick's Day party and the homeless man who picks up the beer cans so he can have a little bit of money for a meal, clothing, etc. We see abandoned or burned houses next to intact homes. We've seen the Wailing Wall, a physical barrier that separated the white and black populations in the 1940s transition into invisible barriers in which a town line or road divide poverty and wealth. Beyond these primary contrasts, you see a neighborhood breaking from this divide through awareness.

The Heidelberg Project reveals a broken neighborhood that refuses to give up. You see a neighborhood that's fighting back through art, which reveals the frustration and pride of the people of Detroit. They're creating beauty out of destruction. Their resolve is a motivating factor, which others rally behind and call to fight on. It also reveals a stark sense of the reality that much of this city is angry and wants change. There are so many positives here and the stories we hear from the different people we interact with, the jobs we do make a much larger impact than we typically physically see. A simple interaction with someone can make their day when one shows a genuine interest. Beyond that, even finishing the simplest task can help create a positive mindset and sense of pride for the residents. It allows the people who work at DRMM or Cass to focus on the residents or programs' needs. It creates positive growth that will continue with the groups who come after us.

The ability to see growth or improvement is a part of our mindset and it is definitely something so difficult to overcome when you're always told that jobs done efficiently and quickly will create results and that one should see a return on investment fairly soon after. This trip has required so much patience, whether starting a conversation with a worker or resident of the various programs both nonprofits offer, doing a task like picking up trash around the building, organizing a closet or cleaning a stairwell or storage room. All of these efforts add to the quality of a resident's experience and helps them to feel like they belong. That conversation you have with someone can help them learn a different perspective or even something about themselves they may not necessarily have known about themselves before.

The most impactful part of this trip for me, personally, has been the stories I've personally gotten to hear as well as those shared with the group. When we volunteered at the veteran transition housing through DRMM I had chance to talk to two of the executive coordinators who shared a bit of their background and story of how they got there. Though neither have been in poverty, they believe that servicing others provides something that is both personally beneficial and humbling. Gary Kabine spent a large amount of time talking about opportunity and regret. He said, "I regret not taking some of the opportunitiesI had now but I know I was supposed to be here, this is another chapter in the book of my life." He has been at DRMM for 14 years and he has appreciated everything they have done for him in providing him a chance to work with a specific group he holds closely to his heart as he is a veteran himself. Derek Howard, though not a veteran, works in various DRMM programs and his quote embodies a quote we always hear when he said, "It's always great to help other people. Makes you happy in your life and that's why I'm here." Service allows you to grow as much as you put into it, just like anything else in life. The amount of effort you put in can also provide a push for a change in the mindset of others and motivate those you are doing service for or with to push through and gain everything from the experience. Robert, a resident who has earned permanent housing through Cass embodies this idea. Two and a half years ago, he entered Cass. He came in with three goals: 1) to break free of his addiction to drugs, 2) to get a job and 3) to get an apartment. He has succeeded in accomplishing all three of these feats and he was extremely motivated. Cass gave him the tools and the little push to guide him down the successful path but it also required him buying into the system and focusing all his energy on improving the aspects of his life he felt he had made mistakes in. It is a balancing act between the nonprofit and the individual in order to have the best and most successful experience possible.

I want to close with a comparison I thought about after doing the True Colors the first night we debriefed. The largest focus and stressing point is that we aren't defined by the color our personality most closely relates with. Everyone has a bit of something in them and just as we aren't defined by the color, the people that we work with aren't defined by their poverty, homelessness, addiction or whatever hinders or alienates them from the rest of society. At the most fundamental level, we are all human. We all feel emotions, we all need food and water to survive as well as shelter, warmth, clothing and a clean body. We aren't simply attempting to prevent a deepening of dehumanization that occurs on a daily basis, we are creating a new sense of humanity, just as these nonprofits and countless other volunteers do each and every single day.

Dan Larrivee
Class of 2017

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Rose That Grew From The Concrete

I wrote this in my journal earlier before meeting Rob from Cass:

Today we picked up paper for Green Industries to shred from a Catholic school in Grosse Point, MI, right outside of Detroit. The community was clearly very wealthy with beautiful homes lining Lake St. Claire. The grass and streets were trash-free and it seemed not one bush has over-grown. However, when we drove ten minutes down the road, we were back amongst abandoned, crumbling homes and buildings, liquor stores and filth. It made me so angry and so confused. How can one end of a street house some of the nation's richest, while the other end of the same street is home to some of the poorest? How can those living in the well-off area ignore their neighbors? Are the even ignoring them or have they all just adjusted to this being the way life is? How does this happen?

On our first day of breakfast, Sue came to the table and asked, "Why Detroit?" I honestly did not know how to answer. In my mind I knew I came to Detroit because I wanted to spend my break making a difference but, ultimately, I would have gone anywhere. Now I have figured out why Detroit matters. While Detroit's own neighbors are happily living their lives, and the rest of the nation talks down upon this amazing city with so much potential, we are here. We are acknowledging that this city can overcome these battles and we believe in the potential that is within it.

When we got back to Cass, Rob immediately proved me right. He proved that there is hope in Detroit and the programs we are helping do make a difference. Rob has gone through the two year program with Cass and is no longer living on the street, but in permanent housing. He has a job and has gotten clean and sober. His smile and joy will forever be engrained in my mind.

I'm going to close this entry with a poem that I think embodies a theme I've noticed recurring this week. Detroit has been down for a long, long time, but I see it slowly coming back to life.

The Rose That Grew From The Concrete
By Tupac Shakur

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it
learned how to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from the concrete
when no one else cared.

Maria Motta
Class of '16

Finding the beauty within the devastation.

Where do I even begin about this amazing journey? It is so hard to believe that there is a place like this that actually exists. It is by far the most devastating, but beautiful thing I have ever been lucky enough to be a part of. Today especially has been the one day where I have been able to see so much beauty come from people who have experienced so much destruction. In my lifetime I will most likely never be able to fully understand what they have or are still going through, but I can understand how blessed I am to have the opportunities and resources that I have. I plan to spend the rest of my life giving to others what I can. While I was painting a wall today, Abdulla, a man living and volunteering was painting along side me. I struck up a conversation with him, and asked him if he lived there. He explained that he did, but did not want to transition into permanent housing. I asked him why, and his response was that he did not want to. I did not push the topic, and reminded him that he was going to figure everything out, and that he would succeed. What I did not realize was how much this conversation was going to change my whole view of this city. He looked me in the eyes and told me he would succeed because he was a solider. I was so taken back that I didn't know how to respond. He ended up walking away and I still stood there motionless thinking. I came to the realization that he was not a solider for the United States of America, he was a solider for the city of Detroit fighting his own personal war, as well as the war of all individuals in this city suffering from the effects of inequality. This man will never know it, but he changed my life. He taught me that within our society, each individual is fighting a battle that we will never understand. In order to help win this war going on in Detroit, we all must stick together and support each other in any way possible. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity.

"A meaningful life is not being rich, being popular, being highly educated or being perfect... It is about being real, being humble, being able to share ourselves and touch the lives of others. It is only then that we could have a full, happy and contented life." - Anonymous

Best Wishes,
Chelsey Hynes
Class of 2015

Detroit Day 5

This experience has been beyond amazing; I have learned so much about the human spirit, perseverance, determination and resilience. I have met so many wonderful people in Detroit who have shown me that they are determined to make Detroit a thriving, successful, wonderful city again and they have also shown me that it will happen. During the day today I had the pleasure of meeting two wonderful human beings - Ed and Robert - who are associated with CASS. Ed is the operations manager of CASS Green Industries and Robert is a formerly-homeless employee of Green Industries.

Both men inspired me by their belief in the city of Detroit and in their belief in the strength and grit of the citizens of Detroit. I really connected with Robert, though, because of his positive attitude/worldview and his inspiring story. Robert was homeless and addicted to drugs before he found CASS and, as they say, the rest is history; he is an active member in the CASS community working at Green Industries, living in the CASS permanent apartment complex, speaking at CASS dinners/events, etc. Robert is an excellent example of a success story where resources were sought-out and provided and a person was able to completely change their life and be so thankful for the changes they made. Robert is an inspiration and is someone I will never forget about.

Detroit is a wonderful city that has an immense amount of potential and I believe in Detroit!

Much love,

Michelle McGonagle
FSU Class of 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Twisting Road of Emotions on an ASB Trip

I am so happy to of been given the opportunity to come on this trip to Detroit, Michigan. Four days into the trip and I have a list of mixed emotions. I am so grateful to of had the chance to get to know my fellow ASB members as this trip continues. A trip like this triggers raw emotion, that cannot be witnessed under any other circumstances. Working with this group has brought me to realize how perfect this group is for this trip.Everyone with their quick sense of humor and crazy antics try to make light of some of the heaviest of emotions. Everyone in this group have taught me something that I hope I can carry with me. Finally having the opportunity to see Detroit with my own eyes the only thing I can relate it to is a post- apocalyptic world. On the other end of this emotion train called ASB 2015 I have become increasingly frustrated that something like this exists in a country that is supposed to promise opportunity and freedom. Their has to be more that can be done. I find it hard to comprehend how long this has been going on and how this was allowed to happen. It makes me personally useless. I also feel frustrated with my own mind as I feel as if I am not connecting with the experience as much as everyone else. I typically am big on daily reflection and am the quick one to respond when others are upset. This trip has left me blank and speechless.

I don't want to leave this on a negative note and for if and when anyone ever reads this I want to say that I am very happy I have chosen to be on this trip and I do not want it to end. I will forever be grateful for this. The people I have traveled with, the people I have met and the sights I have seen

FSU ASB 2015 goes green for St. Patricks Day...actually

As my first blog post on ASB 2015, I can honestly say this has been a whirlwind day. Actually, I will correct that statement, it's been a whirlwind blend of days since Saturday. The range of experiences and emotions have more than I could have ever bet on. Today, we helped create mats out of recycled tires and beads. We also used exercise bikes to generate energy for the building, which was pretty cool seeing as today was St. Patricks Day. I felt that sense of energy in the group, and how energized we felt today. I think it's so important that we maintain this energy as the week progresses, for the team but for the people we encounter as well. While reflecting on our day, I noticed how special this group truly is. The way that some people can open up and make themselves so vulnerable is incredibly contagious. The only way we are going to be fully capable of making an impact for ourselves and Detroit is by being honest with how we are feeling. Not talking about what we are experiencing doesn't make anything better, and I am proud that we have found that safe space so early on to communicate. I feel good, and I am so ready to continue watching myself and other continue to learn from Detroit, and I hope we teach Detroit a thing or two.

Safe travels

"Please Don't Judge Me"

Today marks my second day of service. It's only Tuesday night, but I'm already feeling so many emotions. I spent the first half of my day at S.A.Y.Y which is a DRMM family health clinic. This facility houses veterans, single dads with children, and they also have a clinic for women. During my groups time there, the task at hand was to help organize the kitchen's back room where they stocked their food and other products. I was fortunate enough to speak with the kitchen supervisor, William Gardner, who goes by Q. I've never met anyone like Q like before. His character and confidence really intrigued me and all I wanted to do was learn more about him. After my group and I were done cleaning and organizing the kitchen we gathered around Q at one of the cafeteria's tables so that we could chat.  Before he started to talk to us, Q said "Now I'm about to tell you all the story of my life, so please don't judge me". After he had said this, I started to really feel overwhelmed. Since I am an extremely emotional person (a blue, my ASB friends will understand this reference) I just wanted to assure him that he should feel comfortable and proud to tell the story of his life, because no two stories are alike. After Q had said this, my attention was completely devoted to him and listening to what he had to say. I smiled when he talked about happy times and expressed my sympathies during the bad. He was such an honest and easy going guy that the conversation became so enjoyable. Overall, my conversation with Q left me feeling inspired and confident that I can work through any problem that comes my way. It was the most meaningful conversation that I had in a really long time. I really needed that.

If I could talk to Q again, I would tell him " Don't ever be afraid of judgement because of your past, you have an incredible story".

Tomorrow's a new day, I can't wait to see what it brings for me.

Stacy DeGrazia

ASB Changed My Life, I Hope It Can Change Yours

Wow! This trip to Detroit has already changed my life for the better. Everyday I learn something new that I never thought I would have learned before going on this trip. I have learned to not take my life for granted because my life could be a lot worse (not saying that my life is bad, it's great!) The first thing people need to realize when working with the homeless population is that they not choose to be homeless, it just happens. It can happen to anyone because life can take you on unexpected journeys that you may or not be ready for. Alternative Spring Break is more than just a week of service for me, it is about learning about myself and learning how I can best serve those less fortunate than I am. Personal stories are what makes this trip to Detroit special to me. In 10 years, I am not going to remember the time when I organized a closet, but I will remember the special bonds and personal narratives I shared/learned with the people I have met from Detroit. Nobody will understand how powerful and special this trip is until somebody experiences it for themselves. From 9th grade until a few days ago, I really thought that I would graduate college with an undergraduate degree in business; however, I have really been taking a different approach to what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I have decided that I am going to be applying for an internship at a homeless organization held a few towns over from my hometown. This is only the 4th day in Detroit, and I have already experienced more emotions and realizations than I thought I would have in my entire life! I encourage everyone who has even a slight interest in applying to ASB to do so.

Freshman Class of 2018
Nolan Bridgewater

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Inequality is sneaky"

I was really unsure of what we would see in Detroit. We prepared all year about what Detroit had been through, throughout their history, how the people had and still do suffer from poverty, homelessness, addiction, but seeing these things in person is a very odd feeling. I am not necessarily surprised at how different Detroit is from anywhere I've been, it's something else. I can go a couple of miles down the highway and not notice the inequality but over time it weighs on me. Seeing these destroyed buildings, gray skies, and people on the street begins to take it's toll on me from an emotional and mental aspect. A professor that I had in the fall semester, Dr. Rutter, would say in one of my classes that, "Inequality is sneaky." In the context of the class that phrase meant that inequality is something that is not obvious to everyone; there isn't a sign directly pointing to where the problem lies or how to fix it. I think this phrase applies to my experience so far in Detroit. I haven't always been able to point out where there are abandoned buildings, or where there is crime but over time the inequality creeps up on me and shines a very small light on the reality of many people's situations in Detroit.

A part of me knows in order to stay optimistic and strong, I need to push some of these things aside to keep moving forward. However, I am realizing that when I keep pushing these thoughts away and never truly thinking about how all of this disparity is affecting me I will never really understand my relationship with Detroit and its people, and also the group. I want to make sure that I am making the time to understand how I am feeling and process my thoughts so I can express them via this blog or talking with the group.

On a side note, I am very proud of the group's ability to reflect on their day and internalize some of the many messages they are picking up. I saw everyone in my group (Molly, Calvin, Devon, Chelsey, Katie, Carla, Caitlin, Nolan, Colin, Julia) make some sort of connection during the day to help them understand what's going on around them. I am really happy to see that and will only make their experience that much more impactful. 

TL Brandon

New Beginnings

Today was emotional. Seeing the good the bad and the ugly of Detroit. I loved working with DRMM and hearing everyones stories. Even though Miss Ula worked us hard in the kitchen it was nice seeing the kitchen spotless. Picking up trash at first was nice cleaning the playground that the little kids will now be able to use. Once we got into it we I noticed there was an abandon building right behind the playground where the kids play. I don't understand how these people have so much hope because you look around it honestly looks hopeless. Its nice knowing that one person like Ms. Brown make it so that we can come out and help. We couldn't do what we do if it wasn't for people like Ms. Brown. She's whats good in Detroit. She is the type of person this city needs, shes willing to take anyone and anything in. Even the stray cat we found while picking up trash. At Cass it was hard seeing what we did in the piles of trash we were picking up. We found babies shoes, but not a full pair only one. That means theres a baby out there with only one shoe. It breaks my heart. My stomach turned when we found the bunny. Some child has lost their stuffed bunny, and who knows it could of been their favorite stuffed animal. Today was hard, we saw things that we have only talked about and even more. This city needs are help, but I also thing I need this city. Day by day my views on the homeless are changing and this city is changing my mind. There is still so much good here, I don't want anyone to think that its all bad. Things like the Heidelberg show me that there is hope, and wonderful things happening here. I know I made the right decision to apply to ASB again and I know that this trip will change me.

Caitlin Murray
Class of 2016

Thursday, March 12, 2015

One Last Trip

The entire year has led up to this moment. Fundraising began in May; Amy, Brandon, and I collaborated all summer about locations and organizations; a truly inspiring group of 21 students and 3 chaperones were selected; we got to know more about each other and about the incredible city of Detroit, and now it's here. Alternative Spring Break 2015 is upon us, and I have a thousand feelings about embarking on my last trip.

I've gotten a chance to reflect over the last couple of days about ASB and its undeniable power to change lives. I recently rewatched the post-trip video from each trip I've participated in, which of course led me to do some pretty extreme ugly crying. What's so touching about those videos to me is that they so perfectly illustrate the incredible transformations that occur during ASB. Students' worlds are rocked on this trip; they come back with a wider perspective of the world and how it works. But, most importantly, they return with a clearer sense of what THEY can do to take the world's problems and fix them. They learn that tiny acts of service do matter, that kindness truly can heal the world, and that their network of neighbors is far more expansive than they've ever realized. I can't think of a single other experience that has so thoroughly changed who I am and what I stand for. ASB truly changed my life and the lives of countless others.

My experience in Joplin in 2012 set a fire in me and a determination to ensure this experience for other students. Being a Trip Leader is a completely different perspective than being a participant, but it's rewarding in a whole new way. Seeing a switched flipped in students' minds, watching them absorb their experience, and listening to them reflect on their service makes me so happy for the world, because it's filled with some truly spectacular humans. We need darkness to see the light, and watching these genuine, bright-eyed students approach communities that have experienced hardship truly illuminates the overwhelming presence of good that exists in this world. I cannot wait to see what Detroit has in store for the participants of ASB 2015.

Time and time again, ASB has restored my faith in humanity. Whatever good I have been able to produce has come back to me ten-fold in the most unexpected ways. ASB has given me courage, empathy, and, above all, a purpose. Words can't describe how sad I will be to say goodbye to this program, but I am positive, without a doubt, that ASB will continue to change every life that crosses its path for years and years to come.

More than love,
Tori Dost '15
Operations and Education Trip Leader
Alternative Spring Break 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

Barry's Reassurance

     AHHHH!!! I am so beyond excited for these next two weeks to fly by super fast! Today I was given the honor of having Barry for the week. I will be sad to give him up at our next meeting, so I am not going to think about that right now. In thirteen days, we will be well on our way to making a difference in Detroit! As Spring Break is vastly approaching, my academic schedule has become increasingly hectic. With Barry by my side, he will be a constant remind of all the great things to come with our trip. I just need to make it through these next thirteen days!
     I have many goals in mind about this trip, but I challenge myself to step further outside my comfort zone. While trying new things, it is okay to feel uncomfortable because that is how you know you are challenging yourself and growing further as a person.  I have never flown without my family which is a big step outside my comfort zone, but I know with all my lovely friends by my side everything will be great! Another goal for this trip is to grow as a person.  By even applying to join, I was trying knew things in attempt to develop as my own person beyond my small town family.
     One of my life goals is to travel all over the US to gain new perspectives. Detroit is a great starting place for me because the news always displays Detroit as a negative place, I hope to gather my own opinions about the city to share with my family upon return. I am excited to be working with people of different backgrounds with different experiences than me because I have set another goal for the trip to really listen and pay attention to everything these people have to offer. I am excited for our group to experience this trip together and to watch each of us learn and gain something different from it. It is important for me to stay present and attentive through the whole process because this is a great opportunity to really see the world from a different perspective, for the good and the not so good.
      As the days dwindle down, my excitement level raises higher. Before we leave, my goal is to learn even more about the DRMM we will be working so closely with them I want to make sure I have all my background information ready. Once we return, I look forward to sharing my lessons with my family and friends because for the past couple of months they have been going through this process with me as I share every little detail. 

Victoria Gibbs
Class of 2018

Sunday, March 1, 2015

2 weeks to go!

ASB is so soon!! I am so excited, but I feel like I still have a lot of catching up to do as far as the education. Brandon sent me some of the presentations that the group has seen prior to my joining ASB and I have been reviewing those this week. One of my goals is to dedicate a larger amount of time to learning about Detroit, Detroit Rescue Missions Ministries, and what we may be working with on ASB. I feel that any service experience is much more full by educating yourself prior to the work, and I am just a little behind as of right now. I am hoping to be completely up to speed with the rest of the group by the next meeting so I can head to Detroit feeling confident and ready to serve!

A goal I have for myself during the actual trip is to have a go-with-the-flow attitude. I am naturally a very scheduled-oriented person, but I feel that during this trip it is about more than getting the work done quickly. Because this trip is more focused on people, taking the time to converse with those people living in Detroit is just as important as getting whatever task I have been assigned done quickly. I feel like most of my life at FSU is rushed, and I love being so busy, but during ASB I want to take the time to talk to people, look around at where we are, and really invest time in getting to know Detroit and its people beyond just the physical work.

Another goal I have for myself is to make it a top priority to get to know the members of ASB that I don't know well already. This goal is one I have for the next two weeks and also during the trip. I know that every person in this group was chosen for a reason, and I want to spend time growing closer to those people who I have not had the opportunity to spend time with. It is much easier to gravitate toward those people that I have known for the past 2, 3, or 4 years, but I know that I would not be where I am in my knowledge of service had it not been for the returners who took an interest in me during my first years. I want to make sure everyone feels accepted on this trip and know that they can be great leaders and servers before, during, and after ASB!

Molly Buckley
Class of 2015

ASB Goals

With two weeks until our trip I find myself thinking a lot about my previous trip to Detroit. Its been five years since I've been yet it still feels like yesterday. For this trip, I am really looking forward to going back to Detroit and seeing how different the city is. Last time I went I was shocked to see all the abandoned buildings and was definitely out of my comfort zone. The week that I spent there was filled with new and eye opening experiences. This time around I know what to expect when I get there however I can also say that I have no idea what to expect. This experience will be very different from my last one and I am very excited to have the opportunity to go back to Detroit. This trip I am challenging myself to get to know the people of Detroit. I want to sit down with them and hear their stories, I want to understand what it is like to be in their situation. I am also challenging myself to try not to compare this trip with my last trip, which I believe will be a big challenge for me. I want a new and different experience than the one I had last time. I am challenging myself to be open-minded and to experience new and challenging things. In the few weeks leading up to the trip I am challenging myself to become mentally prepared. I want to get in the mindset of not being able to have everything I want. I also want to prepare myself so that during the trip I am not worried about school work. I want to have all of my focus during the week solely on Detroit and the work that we are doing.

Lauren Donnelly
Class of 2017

Only Two Weeks

ONLY TWO MORE WEEKS?!?! Wahhht? We have already learned so much about Detroit, but actually going and getting the chance to experience it is going to be something completely different. To prepare within these next couple weeks I am going to remind myself to live in the moment and to keep an open mind. By the time we get to Detroit I want to make sure I can fully experience it because it is going to be over before we know it! Before we go, I also want to make a point of getting to all the members a bit better with the remaining time. I know that we will have a lot of bonding time in Detroit, but to have a close bond when we arrive will supplement the experience. I am excited to see who I meet in Detroit because I know that there is so much I can learn from them. Everyone there will have a unique story to tell, and I am ready to listen.

Barry, I miss you. We will be reunited in Detroit.

Colin O'Neil

Detroit I'm ready for ya!

I always find that goal setting is the hardest thing to do when you don't now what to expect. How can I set a goal for the unknown? From the little I do know about what well be getting into I'm going to try my best. One of my goals is I want my idea of Detroit to change. I understand that I can't decide this but I can help. I am going to try and keep an open mind about Detroit. I know what the media shows and that is it. I don't want that to be the Detroit I think of. Another goal I have is to step outside my comfort zone. For me this is very hard, I like to think I have a large comfort zone. But I do think this trip will push me to the edge. But I want to actually step out of my comfort zone, seen as I am not there often. My last goal is take lots of pictures. I get so caught up in doing our thing that I don't stop to take it all in. I want Detroit to last forever in my heart, and memories. All of Detroit, the good the bad and the ugly. I cannot wait to get there, I want to be there now. Detroit I'm ready for ya!

Caitlin Murray

Goals (Pre ASB)

These are the goals for myself that I am setting for the trip:

  1. To work my hardest at every opportunity that is given to us as a group
  2. To put my shyness away for the week; I want to ask questions, voice my feelings, bond with my new friends and get the most out of everything that this trip has to offer
  3. I want to learn more about the city of Detroit and bring my knowledge back to MA to share with my family and friends
  4. I want to gain perspective in a positive way
  5. I want to leave the city with no regrets. I want to leave knowing that I challenged myself, talked to new people, and pushed myself to passionately serve others.
Let the countdown begin, I'm ready for you Detroit!

Stacy DeGrazia '15
I am really excited to begin my trip to kick start my New Year's resolution of giving back. In the next few weeks, I plan on volunteering as much time as I can to fundraising ASB. On this trip, I expect to experience many different emotions, some of which may be hard to deal with; however, I am mostly excited to make a positive change in the world.

Nolan Bridgewater
Class of 2018

Who doesn't love Goals? kb2017

My goals are

  •  to really get to know the people we meet of Detroit. 
  • Learn a fun fact of each ASB member!
  • Go out of my comfort zone.
  • smile everyday and make each day count.
  • Quote Bridesmaids on the plane as much as possible.
  • make a difference in someones life.    
  • Don't be afraid to be my true self.   

Kaylee Brazell Class of 2017
With only two more weeks to go the trip is starting to feel so real! I cannot wait to get to the airport with everyone and their bags ready to. We have spent so many hours working to fundraise and so many meetings discussing what this trip is going to be like. Now I want to see for myself what the money we have raised has allowed us to do and experience what Detroit is like. I am also excited to experience my first trip with the Alternative Spring Break trip. My goal for this trip is get to know everyone in the ASB group better as well as meet new people in Detroit.

Jenna Illingworth
The biggest goal I have set for myself might sound really weird to other people but is a big deal to me is that I will talk. For those who do not know me too well probably think I am awkwardly shy, which is true. But according to my friends who know me well think I am ridiculously obnoxious and loud. So my biggest goal is to show that side of me. Another huge goal is making the most out of this trip. Like Amy said this is our trip, and we should do all we can to learn something amazing from it. The memories we make on this trip will last years to come, and we should do our best to make great ones. Those who we will go and help might think we are changing their lives, but in reality I think it will be them who we come to remember as inspirations. It will be a great trip, we just have to own it, and be the ones to make it everything we want it to be.

Michaela Lombardo 2017

ASB Goals!

I'm so excited to start my ASB adventure! I have found a new found passion for service and I cannot wait to apply this to a place I have never been to. This will be my first time on a plane and my first time leaving the New England area. With that said, I really hope to challenge myself during these next few weeks. I want my time in Detroit to be a time for personal growth! Goals I will set for myself  and for my ASB Crew include helping to improve the Detroit area, creating a lifelong bond with the people around us, be present, and to do something unexpected of yourself/do something that scares you. Less than 2 weeks!!! :)

-Samantha Joseph (Class of 2016)

Michelle's goals for the trip

My goals for ASB in two weeks:
1) Push myself outside of my comfort zone
2) Make a connection with each team member
3) Be present throughout the entire trip (I will miss my Dixie Doodle, but this is a once in a lifetime experience ... I can live it up with Dix before and after!)
4) Pack light for this trip (I tend to over pack a lot; you never know what you will need!)
5) Create a relationship with the people we meet and work with in Detroit; get to know their story, what they have gone through, what their dreams are, what their goals are, etc.
6) Bring the great work we do in Detroit back to MA; keep volunteering and working with people in my community.

I can't wait for Detroit!

Michelle McGonagle
Class of 2015


I can't believe we only have 2 more weeks until Spring Break aka spending a week in Detroit!! I've been giving the trip a lot of thought and there is certainly a lot I hope to accomplish.

My goal before we leave is to get packed and prepared for the trip. There are still a few packing logistics I am trying to prepare for. I would also love to get all my work done before hand so that I won't be worried about school while in Detroit. Basically I want to make sure I am prepared for an amazing week in Detroit... but we'll see how much preparing I actually get done beforehand. I would also like to do some of my own research on Detroit. Although I have learned a lot in the meetings, I think it will be helpful for me to pursue a little bit of research on my own.

Once we are in Detroit I really want to dive into the work. I think the sooner we get to work the sooner the fun and bonding will start, which is something I am really looking forward to. Another goal I have is to not think about myself for the week; I know its going to be a tiring week, and we're all going to be very dirty, but I want to stay focused on the big picture. I want to help make a difference and in return I know that I will be rewarded with much newfound knowledge!! In order to accomplish this I think it's important to "be present" for the week and not let other little things get in the way of the trip.

Let the countdown begin!
Emily, Class of 2015 :)

Goals for ASB

First of all I want to say that I am so excited for the trip in just two short weeks! My mom asked me today how excited I was, and it got me thinking about how soon we will be leaving. For the upcoming weeks, I really want to work on helping out with fundraising more. With my schedule it can be difficult, but Amy really got everyone motivated today, and I am really looking forward to helping reach our goal. I also want to start preparing myself by thinking about what I am going to bring with me, and how I am going to deal with being away from home. Lastly, I want to start doing more research into Detroit Rescue Missions Ministries and familiarize myself with the organization more!


I am SO excited!


Chelsey Hynes

While I am sure that all of us are in the same boat, I've been looking for the right word to sum up my emotions in finally realizing it's less than two weeks until we go to Detroit. I would probably choose exhilarated, like when you experience the first drop on a roller coaster. You are waiting for it to come and finally we are right before that drop. For the next two weeks, I want to prepare myself as much mentally as I can for this trip. Being someone who has never even attempted something like this, I know I need time to condense my thoughts and be truly present. I keep thinking about how was these months flew by and how fast the Detroit week will go by. My biggest goal is to remain present and remember why I choose to do this, because ready or not, here we come!

Safe travels,

Carla Mungovan
Class of 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015

Pre-ASB Reflection

         Before I began to share my thoughts so far, I just want to express how excited and grateful I am to be given this wonderful opportunity for a memorable life changing experience.

          The more information we learn about Detroit, the more surprised I become to learn about a completely different part of our world.  I am astonished with how much change Detroit has been through over these years. All these change of poverty levels, homelessness and overall dynamic of the city has changed in such relatively short amount of time. It is incredibly sad how many people have been affected by the city's economic repercussions.  So much can happen in a short amount of time that many people do not expect to happen to their home.

       I am excited to see the vast differences of culture in one city, caused from years of trouble. Although I am sure we will experience and see the downsides of the city such as all the abandoned buildings, I am eager to see all the beautiful changes the city is undergoing in hopes to improve it altogether. In a video we saw, some of the people who currently live in the are frustrated with the way the media portrays the city. These residents say if the media took a picture of the building next to a rundown building, they would also experience all the wonderful things the city is trying to improve and fix. I want to see the other side of the camera to experience all the positives the city has to offer. The city was once an amazingly strong place ahead of its time setting new standards in history, I want to experience the city that changed the world one car at a time.     

       My hometown is a very small town with more buffalo than people, not really it is just a saying we have in Rutland, MA because we have a buffalo farm. There are many differences between Rutland  and Detroit because one is a very small town as the other is a large city. The only similarity I can find between these two places is the fact they are both going through a renewing processes. Rutland was once a town with hospitals for people who need fresh air of the country after being in the polluted city.  Many of the hospitals were knocked down when the neighborhoods were being built, but one remained until recently. This hospital was in a large gated area to prevent anyone from entering.  I have a family background in real estate, so I only thought about this empty building the way I was conditioned to think of vacant homes. I never really considered people could be living in the building or using the empty space for bad things. After this building was knocked down, a pathway was built in its trail leading to my towns middle school. Along with this new pathway, the town is trying to make it more appealing for all the residents by building new residents and creating fun activities for families.

Victoria Gibbs
Class of 2018

Pre- ASB Reflection

1) What was the most surprising thing you've learned about Detroit?
       Perhaps not the most shocking of things, but throughout the experience so far I've become more aware of the good qualities of Detroit. I've been conditioned to believe that Detroit is a ghost town, a conglomeration of abandoned buildings, murders, and corruption. I suppose the most surprising thing is the amount of conditioning people outside of Detroit have.
        It struck me when I watched the video and saw the differences between the two high schools. The abandoned high school was always the one to be highlighted in media, while they disregarded the brand new, beautiful building.
       There are some incredible things to be seen in Detroit and it's still unknown to me all of the beauty that I'm sure I'll be seeing in a few weeks.

2) What do you expect to see in Detroit?
      The truth is I'm not all that sure what I'll be seeing in Detroit. I'm sure I'll be seeing what the media portrays (i.e. the abandoned buildings and run down nature of the city). The homeless population may come as a bit of a culture shock.
     But, like I said in the previous question, there are parts to this trip that I can't even imagine quite yet. The stories, the experiences... these are the things that I believe will make the greatest impact.
   I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm expecting to put a face to the blank page that is Detroit to me right now. However, I'm just not sure what that face will be quite yet.

3) What are some of the similarities that your hometown and Detroit will have?
    Growing up in a suburban Massachusetts town, I can't think of many surface similarities between my hometown and Detroit. However, I have a feeling that once I spend a week in Detroit, I'll find a lot more similarities between the two than I ever would have expected.
Devon Garufi

Class of 2018

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Colin + Barry Forever

So far ASB has been a life changing experience, and we haven’t even gone on the trip yet! I have been surrounded by so many incredible people that have all inspired me in different ways. You are all awesome. Especially Barry.

I am excited for our mission to go to Detroit and help the homeless. We have learned about Detroit’s rough past the last fifty or so years, but I know that when we go we will see a Detroit that is much more than the negativity that it's usually associated with. Amidst a city with a rough past will be hope. I am excited to meet and connect with the people of Detroit, and to bring my passion and hope for change.

It is hard for me to draw comparisons between my hometown Acton and Detroit. Acton is a small, privileged town and I have been blessed to have been able to grow up there. While Detroit and Acton may have obvious differences on the outside, I know that deep down we both share common humanity, compassion, and dignity.

Peace out,


Down, Yet Not Out

While growing up, I've always known Detroit as the home of the Pistons, Tigers, Red Wings and Lions. I grew up hearing about Motown being the birthplace of Eminem and countless other personalities that one could see in various pop culture areas. I never heard of the White Flight in the late 1960s and the 1970s, the corruption, the shift and decrease in population in any history classes or the media because it wasn't something that was considered important enough to gain national attention. That changed in 2013 when the city filed for bankruptcy. I couldn't go an hour without hearing about Detroit filing for bankruptcy. Media outlets constantly asked the question, "Where does Detroit go from here?" We constantly hear that it is always darkest just before the dawn and Detroit is proving that with the direction that they're going. They've created a bankruptcy plan that has been approved so that they will work back towards the black, rather than the red. They have hunkered down on the corruption that plagued their political system. They are using creative expression to show the world that they're still there and that Detroit will be back and better than ever. This is an ongoing process and I'm sure there will be many abandoned or decrepit buildings and houses but there will also be areas being re-built or repaired and areas showing this growth and improvement. I'm from a small town where very little excitement happens. Uxbridge is a white-collar town that is home to doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, etc., yet it's history is steeped in blue-collar work. It once served as the midpoint between Worcester and Providence and was a hub for mills on the Blackstone and Mumford Rivers. Similar to Detroit, the town focused on manufacturing for its income. It took time to transition and the mills are now home to various independent businesses and apartment complexes. Sadly, one of the mills burned down, which caused over 100 small business owners their life work. Considering the size of Detroit and taking into account the sheer amount of income they gained through manufacturing, it will take so much time, patience and tireless work not only from the citizens of the city, but also of volunteers to help this city return to its former glory.

Dan Larrivee
Class of 2017

Pre-ASB Reflection

I think that the most surprising thing that I have learned about Detroit is the number of people that have left the city. I knew that there was a decline in the population but I never realized how many people actually left and trying to imagine such a decline in population is hard for me to wrap my head around. Since I have been to Detroit a few years ago I know what to expect going into the city. I know that we will come across multiple abandoned buildings and see the poverty that has taken hold of the city and that is something that I believe I am mentally and physically prepared for. That being said I am excited to see if there have been changes to the city. It has been about 5 years since I have been and I am looking forward to seeing the progress and changes that the city has undergone. Coming from a city that struggles with homelessness and violence I think Detroit and my hometown of Lynn will be similar however not on the same scale. Detroit is much larger than Lynn and its problems are far worse however Detroit and Lynn both deal with similar issues. In my opinion, Lynn is able to deal with the issues of homelessness and violence in ways that are more effective than how Detroit deals with its issues of homelessness and violence. While both cities address the issues of homelessness and poverty in different ways these are two characteristics that both Lynn and Detroit share.

Lauren Donnelly
Class of 2017

Pre-ASB Reflection

I was most surprised to learn about all of the abandoned homes and buildings in Detroit. When I first told my family and friends I was going on this trip, many of them reacted in a negative or confused way. So before even learning anything about the city, I kind of had negative preconceived notions of what was going on there. I knew the city was in trouble, but I never imagined that there could actually be so many abandoned buildings in a city. It just seems strange and so unheard of to have a major city actually be abandoned.

I expect to see those buildings that we learned about. I think I might initially feel very out of place or out of my element because I have not spent much time anywhere where I am the minority. It will be interesting to be put in that position. Also exciting. I'm not sure what else I expect to see.

On the basic level, Detroit and my hometown are similar because both places serve as a home to families and individuals that are trying their best each day to live a happy life. I also think my town and Detroit are similar because both are recently experiencing a revival. The joke throughout my life is that my town is a ghost town after 8:00 pm because it's a small town and not much goes on there. Recently, new businesses and restaurants have been built and running and have really turned my small town into a hip downtown that all different kinds of people enjoy. While still much smaller than Detroit, it's cool to see that even small communities can rebuild themselves.

Maria Motta

Class of 2017

Hey there, ASB 2015!

New year, new ASB! It has been quite a whirlwind becoming part of ASB 2015, and I feel like I have learned a lot, but I know I still have a long way to go. I really enjoyed George's presentation today at the meeting, and I think the numbers were that most surprising part for me. I really can't even picture a city that has only two thirds of the buildings occupied. It's also hard to picture a city that is three times the size of Boston and 5 times the size of Framingham, but had less than half the number of people than there used to be. When I think of Detroit, I feel like I picture what the media portrays and I think it will be really shocking to see for myself how it actually looks now. I know that this is a situation that pictures just cannot do justice, but I also realize that the media's depiction is not necessarily accurate. However, while I know Detroit has had more than its fair share of challenges over that last few decades, I was really inspired by the video that George showed us. It showed people who live in Detroit and see it as a place that has seen struggle, but is still a great place to live and work. I am excited to be there and get to meet people who believe in Detroit and see it as a place that can come back from all of these challenges. Meeting people that have positive attitudes despite adversity has always been one of my favorite parts of ASB, and I really hope that is something we will find in Michigan!

Molly Buckley
Class of 2015

My First Post: Pre-ASB Reflection

1. One thing I was surprised to learn, and see, is how vacant and worn down many of the houses are. I have continually heard how many people have fled the city, so it makes sense that the houses are vacant, yet, I never thought of what this meant for the houses themselves or never pictured a city having so many physically empty building. Not only is having people leave the city problematic for Detroit, but with people then trying to illegally vacate the houses there are even more possible problems.

2. I expect to see very passionate people living in Detroit! I think many of the people we are going to be seeing and possibly interacting with are going to be very enthusiastic about Detroit. I know the people who have stuck with the city so far must believe their city and all it's potential to be rebuilt. Just like any of us who have fond memories of our hometown, these people have great memories in Detroit and I look forward to learning from them and hopefully being able to help in some way.

3. Despite how much we have been talking about Detroit, I do not feel like I know enough to be able to compare it to where I grew up. At this point, I feel like Detroit is going to be so incredibly different from my hometown BUT I definitely think that I will be surprised once we get there and I hope that I am able to make more connections to my hometown once we get to experience Detroit and all that it has to offer.

Only 3 more weeks!!!
Emily :)

Expectations of Detroit

It has been really interesting to learn about Detroit this year! I think that the most surprising thing that I learned is the history of Detroit and how it used to be a booming city at one point, and how it got to where it is today. I did not realize how large the city is, and how the size of Boston compares. I am curious to experience the city due to the fact that so many people have moved out. I am curious to see whether the area we are working in will be highly populated or if it will appear abandoned. I think it is very positive that people like us are going to Detroit to help with it's rebirth and I look forward to seeing where Detroit is in the future. When we get to Detroit, I expect to see some abandoned buildings like in the videos that we have watched. However, I also expect that it will look very similar to other cities that I have seen such as Lowell which neighbors my hometown. I am not sure that my hometown and Detroit will have too much in common, but I expect that there will be similarities such as similar sized neighborhoods and similar spacing between businesses and homes. I am so excited to get to Detroit with this wonderful group of people and to see how my expectations of Detroit will change or be the same!

Katie Moreau Class of 2016

Looking Forward!

The most surprising thing that I have learned about Detroit is that the city is currently in a state of rebirth. When we are in Detroit this spring break I will want to keep that in mind because our group will be adding to the rebirth of the city. Volunteerism is one of the best ways to aid the city because we want to benefit the people there as much as possible. I expect to see lots of the abandoned buildings and homes that are a common part of Detroit, but will take notice of the new structures being built such as new schools, parks, and community gardens. My hometown and Detroit were known for having large factories. We are the furniture capital and a majority of those buildings have minimized. I notice how my town is working on the rebirth of certain areas as well. I hope that coming back home for the summer after visiting Detroit I can bring something back to my home town to help.

Samantha Joseph '16

Pre ASB Reflection

22 February 2015

It's been surprising to learn where Detroit has come from to where it is today. I grew up in New Hampshire but spent much of my childhood in the Lowell area where my family was from. Alot of what I'm seeing from images of Detroit is very reminiscent to me of Lowell. People are always scared to go there or have certain doubts and opinions formed about the area, but once you've been there everything changes. I've got hope for Detroit and what we'll find there during ASB.

I expect that the rebirth in Detroit will be incredibly apparent, despite many of us having doubts. The power of the drive of our younger generation is something that I've been in awe of before and I really am expecting that Detroit will be no different. I know that the abandoned buildings will be incredibly apparent (1/3 is alot), but as an artist, I also know that the streets will be alive: artists will have gotten there already to put some beauty onto the vacant walls of old buildings. I'm excited to see and feel the energy from our group but also from the people we work with. I'm betting money on Detroit being an experience to remember.

Comparing Detroit and my hometown (or as I like to say, New Hampshire) is like comparing peanut butter and jelly to a filet Mignon; there is no comparing (though I myself would definitely prefer the pb&j, just saying). I am finding almost no similarities to Detroit and the quiet, wooded suburbia that I grew up in. However, I'm drawn to urban areas and I personally always feel incredibly comfortable traveling to new places. I'm ready to experience Detroit!

Calvin Ridley

Class of 2016

Pre-ASB Reflection

The most surprising thing I've learned about Detroit is the amount of poverty. Before starting ASB, I really didn't know anything about Detroit, besides what I would see on the news or read on the internet. Another aspect that I found surprising, which I learned from George's presentation, is how much the population of Detroit has changed throughout the years. Finally, it was surprising to hear that the city is in a stage of rebirth.What I expect to see in Detroit is emptiness due to abandoned homes and buildings. I am hoping that during the trip, I will have the opportunity to see what the city of Detroit has to offer and how it may go against the labels that the city has been given by the news.  Some similarities that my hometown and Detroit have are abandoned buildings due to financial problems in the town and not being able to keep it open. I'm so ready to make my mark in Detroit with service. I am so excited to be in a new place and work with a wonderful and special group of individuals.

Stacy DeGrazia '15

Thinking about Detroit

1. I did not know how rural it is; when I think of a city I think of something similar to NYC or Boston. However, looking at the video that was presented to us, I saw that there is quite a large rural section. I enjoyed hearing that there is more of a rebirth coming about today in Detroit. It is easy to just think of the city as being in shambles, and as the video discussed, there is more attention given to the fact that the city is suffering. However, it is important to consider the alternative life that people are uplifting nowadays. The younger population (teens and young adults) are seeing the city as having potential to be in a good standing again. I am happy to see that people are really working together to put the broken pieces of Detroit back together.
2. I originally expected to just see a lot of buildings and commercial lots; however, after watching the video I saw that there was also a large rural area in Detroit. It was discussed how going through the streets, you will see vacant houses among elaborate houses. I think that would be interesting to see because usually when you think of a neighborhood, you think of a singular "look" or pattern. I also think that there will be a very spaced out population, as it has shrunk so much over time. I am excited to see Detroit and learn more about it via the trip.
3. My home town is small. It is a densely populated, rural community and it does not really have many commercial residencies. Detroit is huge and seems to have both a rural portion as well as a more city- like feel to it, including places to go and activities. My town lacks this, however I think the most that they will be similar is the rural portion.

                                                                                        Julia Jarvis, Junior

Detroit: What I have learned so far

1) The most surprising thing I have learned so far is how the city has worked to shut down entire neighborhoods because of the lack of funding and resources first responders - like police and fire - have. You hear about Detroit in the news and how entire neighborhoods are abandoned, but you think it is of peoples own volition to move out of their homes. To learn that in some ways people had no choice BUT to leave is crazy. I cannot imagine being forced out of my childhood home where I have so many memories because there is no money in the budget for first responders to serve my neighborhood, water in being cut off from the area, etc.

2) What I expect to see in Detroit are abandoned buildings - as it seems that many people focus on this negative - but I also expect to see very vibrant buildings and people. I loved that the video George showed had people talking about the positives in Detroit; so often we focus on the negatives when there are just as many, if not more, positives. Detroit is a vibrant city and even in its current state I am certain I will see and feel this vibrancy!

3) A similarity between my hometown of Arlington, MA and Detroit is that it is currently going through a revitalization with the many young, hip people who are moving in. Arlington never experienced the economic hardship that Detroit has experienced, but there were times that lots of people moved out and it did not have a lot of rich culture going on. It is now an "it" place to live and lots of young people, families, etc. are moving in and giving Arlington a flair - for better and for worse. This can be seen in Detroit where lots of young people are moving in and breathing new life into a struggling city.

I am beyond excited to get to Detroit ... 20 more days!

Michelle McGonagle
Class of 2015

19 days 17 hours 23 mins and 45 seconds... but who's counting

I have learned so much about Detroit through this whole experience. Mainly how much it has changed. It is crazy to me that a major city can go through so much change. Looking at how many of the houses have changed from being vacant to demolished amazes me. I have been to poor parts of the world but I think this will be a totally different for me because it is in the states.  I have no idea what to expect to see in Detroit. Part of me feels like it'll be like Brooklyn or some other major city, of course adding in the vacant buildings. I feel like the people that live there will be grateful for what were doing, just like they are grateful for the young 'hipsters' who have moved there over the past couple years. I know I will be excited to see they way community comes together in Detroit. I love the fact that the people of Detroit are trying to make parks and gardens and different places for community. It is something that my hometown of Attleboro has and something that I know will make me happy.

I have an idea of what to expect Detroit to be like, but I know as soon as I get there the city will change me.

Caitlin Murray
Class of 2016