First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All. – Being Great on #MLKDay

This guest post is written by Tiran Burrell, an Eastern Michigan University alum and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. serving as a Team Leader with City Year Detroit on the United Way Team at Osborn High School.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is among one of the greatest people who has ever lived.  His undying optimism in troubling times as well as his drive to ensure civil rights for all Americans has truly become an inspiration that has been felt throughout the world. He has imprinted in the minds of many that indeed, dreams do come true. Most importantly, he has done a tremendous amount of service to humanity.

He is truly a member of Alpha Phi Alpha that lived up to our motto:

First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All.

As a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., like Dr. Kingservice is a large factor in my life. Dr. King said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” This quote is something that I truly believe and connects to the altruism associated with “Servants of All.” As a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., I have served in various places such as: shelters, urban gardens, youth aid programs, fundraisers and even city clean-up initiatives.

Serving others, especially in the city where I was raised, is extremely important to me because I want to see my city grow. I joined City Year Detroit in hopes to see this happen – starting with education, because it is the foundation from where it all happens. I see students much like myself not granted the opportunities I was and it inspires me to change it.  At some point, it stops being about yourself and it starts being about how to “make better happen” for everybody. I am glad I joined City Year to be a part of that change in Detroit, something that another member of Alpha Phi Alpha and former mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer, sought after when he assisted in starting the City Year site here.

On June 23, 1963, months before the March on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King first gave his unforgettable “I Have a Dream” speech here on the streets of Detroit. I am delighted to serve in Detroit on MLK Day because there are so many ties that bind us together.

As a fraternity brother who came from the place where Dr. King first shared his dream, it is a great honor to be a part of this day. I love the fact that Detroit Public Schools alumni like myself have volunteered to serve on this day at various schools around the city, including Osborn, which is the school I serve at. This is proof that others have started living, according to King, as they work on the concerns of all humanity. This day is greater than me and why I serve. It is improving the conditions that we live in to make them better so next generations can “Transcend All” that we have done.

It is with the utmost pride that I partake in this service day for Detroit, Dr. King, Alpha Phi Alpha, and City Year.

Dr. King said, “Everybody can be great, because anyone can serve.” Greatness does not always lie in your accomplishments, but how you can make the world a better place. As servants, it is our duty to do great things.



Team Noble service @ Arts & Scraps

On Tuesday November 4, voters took to the polls, on what proved to be a historical day. Noble Elementary Middle School, where my team and I serve, was a voting site and was closed for the day, but that didn’t stop us from serving.

Our day started at 8:00am, instead of the usual 7:15am. Our Team Leader scheduled us to volunteer for the day at Arts & Scraps, a non-profit organization that uses recycled industrial materials to create kits for people of all ages use their minds to think, learn and create. The service began in the Arts & Scraps warehouse, where my team and I formed two mini assembly lines to prepare kits to be used in classrooms.

The assembly line I was part was responsible for preparing kits so that students could create their own cars as part of an activity in the classroom. The kit included items that many people use on a daily basis like straws, for the axles and used tickets to represent seats.  Each kit came with instructions and information on how the materials included were recycled.

At Noble, the students have been learning about the benefits of the 3 r’s, reduce, reuse and recycle. Arts & Scraps makes use of all three and our students could learn a great deal from the organization. Perhaps as the year continues we can order kits and make use of them sometime during the school day.

At the end of our how time in the warehouse, we were each given a goodie bag so that we could be just as creative as the students who would soon use the kits we created. Seeing what many would consider trash, put to use in such an innovative way at Arts & Scraps was really impressive. If you’d like to find out more about the organization, visit their website:


Written by Crystal LeeNoble1 Noble2

Starfish Story Series: Part 1

Kamal is a ninth grade student in the Metro Detroit area. In the first few weeks of his Algebra 1 class he turned in two out of about ten assignments. Those two assignments being the syllabus and the in class ice breaker done on the first day of class.

Ms. Maria is a City Year, AmeriCorps member serving in Kamal’s school.  Concerned because of Kamal’s lack of effort, she decided to get to know him.  During their first conversation, Kamal informed Ms. Maria that he had attempted to do all of the algebra assignments. However, he had not completed them because he just did not know how.  Kamal even showed Ms. Maria the half completed assignments that he carried with him in his folder.

That day Kamal agreed to have lunch with Ms. Maria.  The two meet in the City Year room at the school. As they ate lunch Kamal explained to Ms. Maria why he hadn’t turned in any of his assignments. It was quite simple. Kamal didn’t want to turn in incomplete and incorrect work for fear that the teacher would think he was stupid.

By the end of the first of their many lunch discussions Kamal had informed Ms. Maria of his past math failures, and lack of ability to learn algebra.

In spite of Kamal’s lack of enthusiasm Ms. Maria decided to continue to offer him support in his Algebra class.  If she noticed that he seemed disengaged she would make an effort to try to get him back on task.  If she noticed him struggling she would offer her assistance.

Eventually, Kamal began to seek assistance from Ms. Maria as well as from his teacher. During his lunch period he would even eat in the City Year room so that he could get extra assistance with homework and to have lessons further explained to him.

By the end of Kamal’s Algebra 1 class, he had completed and turned in all of his assignments. His test and quiz scores had increased.  Most importantly his attitude about himself and his abilities had changed.  Kamal had walked into his Algebra 1 class knowing that he was bad at math. As he walked away from his final exam he looked at Ms. Maria and said, “I just killed that exam.”




Written by Aundrea Stokes

CYD service at The Parade Co.

St. Nick cruising down Woodward is one sure sign that the holidays are here! The Parade Co. is responsible for coordinating epic events in Michigan, including the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Independence Day Fireworks.

The Parade Co. was founded over 75 years ago, to spread holiday spirit and community enthusiasm. There is a volunteer corps of over 1500 who help stage the events. Other fundraisers and outreach events include Hob Nobble Gobble, a black-tie fundraising event; the International Freedom Festival, a celebration of Canadian and American friendship; the 1997, 1998, 2002 & 2008 Red Wings Victory Parades; The 1998 University of Michigan Rose Bowl Victory Parade; the 1999 Big Balloon Parade staged in Green Bay, Wisconsin; and The Parade Company assisted Australia with their Centenary of Federation Parade on January 1, 2001.

City Year had the opportunity to do service this year at the Parade Co. !

Corps members of the Phoenix team assisted in preparing the floats for the holiday season

Thanks to the Parade Co., Team Phoenix, and the volunteers who helped to design and build the floats, this year’s celebrations were a huge success!



Written by Sheariah Howard


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Making the Grade: Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School Community Reflects on Conferences

“Weigh in on how we performed as a school.”

This was the first question Principal Ricardo Martin asked the 24 community member participants on a survey after the Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School “Community Grade Conferences” was over in the school’s cafeteria.

DCPrep Scholars, as students are referred to often, met with pre-screened business professionals from the community to dialogue about how first quarter grades turned out, set goals and get serious about grades.

“I loved the interpersonal and relaxed atmosphere.  This allows students to open up and reflect,” Janae Griggs of I Am Pink Detroit said.

“I have never experienced anything like this before,” Griggs observed.

Theresa Mitchell of the Detroit Parent Network agreed.   “This event allowed students to receive positive feedback and encouragement to do their very best even if they had not done so before.”

Report card conversations with parents get mixed reviews depending on how well a student performs, added principal Martin.  Community Grade conferences give Scholars a forum to reflect on how they did first quarter and what needs to happen differently or stay the same in the case of 4.0 grades.

The ultimate goal is teaching students how to be academically resilient.

“This was a very uplifting and positive experience.  Students were well spoken and very promising,” said Valdez Tilton of Communities in Schools.

Community leaders received the necessary supplies, a brief introduction, and a personal thank you letter for participating in the conference.

Prior to the start of the conference, students entered the cafeteria in groups to be seen by community leaders for less than 5 minutes.  A community leader worked with as many as 10 students where they reviewed student grades, offered support in their area of career interests, inquired about personal and school related interests, possible changes to current practices that might help predict future success, and how classes contribute to state mandated graduation requirements.

Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School stresses the importance of student ownership and professionalism as part of the school’s fourth pillar “CAN DO CLIMATE,” an element embedded within the Talent Development Johns Hopkins approach to care and nurture a culture based on strong relationships between adults and students.  Students were dressed in traditional College Wednesday attire – navy blazers, white shirts and ties.  Teachers prepped students on how to talk, sit, engage, make eye contact, lean forward and use a firm handshake.

About Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School:

Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School offers Detroit students a college-going learning experience to prepare them for academics and careers.  The high school, which includes 9th and 10th graders, and is continuing to enroll through second semester, provides a college preparatory curriculum allowing students to explore college courses and visit college campuses, participate in Upward Bound Detroit, work at internships, and engage in community service and academy based projects.  The school has partnerships with Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Wayne State University, City Year, Communities in Schools, and other business and community organizations.  Grades will be added each year through 12th grade. Students participate in extra-curricular activities such as the Urban Planning Academy with a focus on City of Detroit service projects and Entrepreneur Academy with a focus on school store marketing and management.

DC Prep also is one of nine Detroit Rising College Preparatory Schools.

This new line of nine self-governing schools is designed to replicate high-performing urban school designs at scale within a collective bargaining agreement. The schools are committed to putting every student on a path to graduation and college. The schools will work to ensure at least 90 percent of incoming 9th graders graduate and at least 90 percent of all graduates go to college.

The idea is to delegate power to principals and teachers at the school level, but hold them accountable for performance, in an attempt to get the innovation and quality of high-performing schools.