Three semesters ago, I started visiting Maplewood Assisted Living Home once a week to see my adopted-grandmother. I got involved with the program when my biological grandmother went to an assisted living home for a short period of time due to a hip injury. I went home to visit her and realized how bored she was. Even with all of my family going to see her, I still wished she had more people to visit her. After returning to campus, I heard about the Adopt-A-Grandparent program and immediately wanted to join. After being accepted into the program, I was paired with an amazing adopted-grandmother!
I have been visiting my adopted-grandmother for three semesters now. We always talk, do puzzles, and a month before Christmas break, she started to teach me how to knit. Let me tell you, it is way more difficult than it looks. Right now I’m making a dish rag that was originally going to be a part of my mother’s Christmas present, but now I’m aiming to have it done by Mother’s Day (you will receive it eventually, mom. I love you). I have messed up so many times and my adopted-grandmother has had to take a few rows out and fix my mistakes. But hey, as humans we learn through our mistakes, so each time I have to redo a row I know I’m getting that much closer to getting the hang of it. It is always fun to go and sit with my grandparent and knit. We also really enjoy doing the puzzles together. They are super relaxing and a good way to exercise the brain. I even did one over the summer at my house because I learned I enjoy doing them so much.
Over the past three semesters, I have really grown close with my grandparent. She is definitely a mentor in my life and I have learned so much from her. I have gone to her for advice, laughs, and support. She is such a caring individual and I really do see her as family. I have spent over 30 hours visiting my adopted-grandmother this school year, but I really do not think 30 is enough. Next year, it is my goal to shoot for 40 hours. It is hard finding time being a college student, but it is so rewarding and fun to go visit my grandparent. Plus, I will have a car on campus next year and can use the time I would normally spend walking as extra time visiting. I love visiting her and I plan on being a part of the Adopt-A-Grandparent program until I graduate. I also highly encourage everyone to get involved and apply to become a co-mentor for the program because it truly is a wonderful experience that I have grown so much from. To my adopted-grandmother, if you are reading this, thank you for being the best adopted-grandparent I could ask for!
Normally when I visit Detroit I go to see a concert or to cheer on the Tigers. I have never ventured to Detroit to volunteer, but on April 1st, 2016 I traveled there with my Leader Advancement Scholar cohort to volunteer at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy
and CASS Community Social Services. With the Jalen Rose students, we all split up into groups and rotated to different service projects. My group started off making cards for veterans, then moved to another room to de-fuzz material for a nonprofit in Detroit called Arts & Scraps. After that, my group made door signs for the Special Olympics Summer Games, which are going to be held at Central Michigan University this summer. The signs were made for individual people to greet them as they come to stay in the dorms. The last rotation was very heart touching as we saw a presentation on OK2SAY, which is a program where students and other people can submit anonymous tips when they feel unsafe. After eating at PizzaPapalis, we went to see beautiful art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. At the end of the night, we stayed and did a debrief of the day at the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center. In the morning when we all woke up, we set off to work at CASS Community Social Services. Some people went to shred paper, some went to work in the soup kitchen, and others went to make mud mats. I started off at the soup kitchen sweeping all of the floors, but when I was done I was sent over to mud mat making with a few other people. Mud mat making was a little bit different from what most people would expect. The mats are made from illegally dumped tires in Detroit. Homeless men are employed to make them, and the money goes back to CASS to help with other programs. After working with CASS, my cohort had completed our service trip and returned to Mount Pleasant.
I loved going to Detroit and volunteering because the service we did was different from what I was used to. The most impactful part of the trip for me was when I went to the soup kitchen and talked with some of the people who were homeless. They were so grateful for us being there to help, but they did not look at us any differently than they did their friends. When one of my friends was mopping, she told a man to be careful because it was slippery and he smiled really big and acted like he was sliding on the floor. He was joking around with us and I thought that was really cool because even though we were there to do service work, the people we were helping treated us like friends. Before we left, one man came up to our group and told us that if we ever have any trouble to let him know and he will always be there for us. After he said that, it really showed me that we were there for him and made a difference in his life. Volunteering should not be done for the sake of a picture to post on Instagram, but it should be done to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Sometimes service done does not even get credited, but it still betters the lives of others. When we all went to the Detroit Institute of Arts, there were so many statues that were made by unknown sculptors. Even though these amazing sculptors did not get credit for their work, they still created something beautiful. Service does not always have to be recognized. It is perfectly fine to let your stamp on the world be unknown, as long as it helped someone else have a better life.
Another part of the trip that I really enjoyed was partnering with the students at Jalen Rose to show them that service is fun. We showed them different types of service projects that they can do on their own time without us and they really enjoyed that. Because they partook in service projects they could do without us, I feel like they will be more likely to do them again. You could really tell that they enjoyed their day, and I really enjoyed my day too. The kids were so excited at the end of the day when they heard how many lives we had all touched through our 4 hours of service. Service really is an amazing thing and I truly believe everyone should try to reach out and donate an hour of their time to any cause at least once a week. It does not have to take much time to volunteer and it is such a rewarding feeling to know you have made a positive impact on someone else’s life.
I have been going to Detroit for Tigers games since I have been in 4th grade. The experience has always been amazing for me by seeing the big buildings, walking in crowds of people who are just as excited as I am, watching baseball, and spending time with my family. I had always been aware of the homelessness in Detroit from seeing people on the streets before and after the games, but it never felt real to me until I was leaving the Quick Lane Bowl Game this winter. As I was trying to exit the city in my dad’s car, I saw people huddling on the sidewalk for warmth under tarps when it was pouring down rain. I realized that not everyone is fortunate enough to lie down in their own bed at night in a warm home. We should all be thankful for what we have.
The service trip that I am going on to Detroit relates to the purpose and vision of the Leadership Institute because I am going to learn hands-on how to make a difference in student’s lives at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy by taking on a leadership role and facilitating volunteer work for them. I will also provide service through Cass Community Social Services and actively help the community of Detroit by improving the quality of life and the state of economy there by doing whatever is asked of me with eagerness and willingness.
I think the service trip will help me grow as an individual by taking me to places in Detroit where I have never been before. There, I will see things I typically do not see on a day-to-day basis. I grew up in a small town with a small community and I am not used to seeing what life is like living in urban areas. I will be able to extend a helping hand to those who need a little boost, and I will get to see the impact I make on the lives of the students at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. I will not be serving alone, but I will be helping with 50 other servant leaders; I already know that seeing others helping and caring will make the trip that much more meaningful to me.
There are people in this world who truly love what they do and do what they love. The Fred Factor is a book written by Mark Sanborn about his mailman, Fred, who brought joy to his work, and to others. The four principles that Mark goes into about Fred are: everyone makes a difference, everything is built on relationships, you must continually create values for others, and you can reinvent yourself regularly. In my Introduction to Leadership class, we created a project where we represented these four principles and documented our work. My group set up a table and had people passing by write how they were going to leave their stamp on the world. They were to take that sticky note with them and keep it as a reminder how they were going to positively impact the world using the four principles. From this project, I learned that it is never too late to recreate yourself and that small acts of kindness and encouragement can completely turn a person’s day around.