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Detroit and Downriver students teaming with homeless to turn old tires into new hope Kids’ innovative ‘green’ project with Eastern Michigan University, Hope of Detroit Academy, Cass Community Social Services, Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision transforms scrap rubber into doormats Detroit, Mich. – Turning rags into riches is all in a day’s work for 22 seventh-grade students and teachers from Hope of Detroit Academy. They are collecting scrap tires from some of Detroit’s worst dumping sites and taking them to Cass Community Social Services for conversion into new residential doormats. The project is part of the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) and Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS) to improve K-12 education and protect the environment by having elementary, middle and high school students use “place-based learning” to study ecology and community issues. The scrap tire collection effort is one of several SEMIS stewardship projects taking place in the Downriver and Metro Detroit areas, including Dearborn and Troy. Students come to attend Hope Academy come from Detroit, Lincoln Park, River Rouge and other cities. “I think it is an excellent project to give back to the community,” said Jesenia Gonzalez, 14, of Detroit. “The thing I have learned is that even a small project like this that happens in one day can make a big difference to a neighborhood.” The students’ activities have gained applause from civic leaders and educators alike, highlighted by a recent story broadcast by ABC TV affiliate WXYZ Channel 7 that chronicled a day-long pick-up in several southwest Detroit communities near the Hope of Detroit Academy campus. “I like this neighborhood because there are lots of fields with opossums, raccoons, rabbits and pheasants,” said Henry Silva, 13, of Detroit, who helped spearhead the project’s launch by alerting educators to the tire dumping near his neighborhood earlier this month.

“It is disappointing when I see the trucks dumping lots of tires and nobody seems to be able to do anything to stop them and we all know it’s illegal,” Silva added. “The tires are really bad for the environment. There is oil stuck in the wheels, which eventually ends up in the groundwater. Then the oil can pollute the plants and wildlife. I’m just glad we’re able to help make our the land around our school look better at least.” The Hope of Detroit Academy partnered with Cass Community Social Services for the scrap tire conversion project. The loads deposited by students into trucks are hauled to the Cass facility where homeless volunteers are being trained to transform the waste rubber into decorative residential doormats and are later sold at local fundraisers. “The goal of the initiative is to bring communities and schools together to involve young people in meaningful explorations and studies that lead to real learning about our precious natural resources,” said Dr. Rebecca Martusewicz, director of the SEMIS Coalition and professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Eastern Michigan University. “It is about coming together for a worthy cause, creating a winning situation for everyone involved.” The SEMIS Coalition is one of four “hubs” across Michigan established by the GLSI with funding from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and the Wege Foundation. Partners in this coalition facilitate school-community partnerships and sustained professional development to teachers to develop students as citizen-stewards who understand and can promote healthy ecological and social systems affecting the Great Lakes basin, the southeast Michigan region, and their communities. The GLSI already is in place at dozens of Michigan schools. Officials at the Fishery Trust say they hope to expand the program to more school districts throughout the state. The Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision also provided a helping hand. With an organizational focus on abandoned buildings, illegal dumping, contaminated sites and land use, organizers say they enjoy a special interest in the project. “We are protecting our environment and clearing our land, while teaching an extremely valuable lesson to the children,” said Marina Sanchez Camarena of the Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision program. “The lessons they are learning today will lead to the sustainability of our environment in the future.” ###

Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative Press Release  

A press release I wrote during my time at Pace and Partners