Friday, July 03, 2009

the friday philanthropist

one year ago i was taking out teams of teens to do community service in the summer heat of new orleans. july 2008 was an intense month and, ultimately, the highlight of my nccc experience. this year i discovered summer in the city, a metro-Detroit operation striving to provide teens with positive and diverse community service opportunities. to understand my enthusiasm for this organization, it might be helpful to catch a glimpse of life as i see it:

working with at-risk youth in a south suburb of the city, i am keenly aware of the urban-suburban divide as well as other forms of segregation - racial, economic, political, ethnic, religious. recently, as i listened to two teenage boys explain in prejudice-laden language their inability to escape violence and gang activity less than 10 miles from my home, it seemed like a much greater distance. i thought how sampling life in a few different neighborhoods could provide the perspective necessary to survive high school. then i thought back on my own teen experience living in an adjacent county. some of my friends' parents did not allow their children to set foot in detroit for purposes charitable or otherwise. i experienced my first encounter with blatant racism in the main office of my high school from a national honor society student who assumed i shared her feelings.

to my mind, the chief benefit of summer in the city is not developing youth leaders or rehabbing houses. the greatest opportunity this organization offers is for young people to step outside of their comfort zones, interact with peers from diverse backgrounds, and engage in activities that help them understand: the difference between a foe and a friend is often saying hello.

**summer in the city is experiencing a bit of a financial crisis and struggling to keep registration fees down so people are not turned away for economic reasons. i know times are tight, but if you have a dollar to spare, it would mean a lot to me if you'd spend it here.**

No comments: