Bailey St. Laurent
Alternative Break Detroit
During this year’s Alternative Spring Break, one group traveled from Keene, New Hampshire, to Detroit, Michigan, to work with Focus: Hope. Focus: Hope is a non-profit organization in Detroit’s North End. The impoverished area has been left in ruins as a result of a poor economy and increased crime rates throughout the years. High unemployment has forced citizens out of their homes and into shelters and churches as they hope for change and search for answers.
Fortunately, Focus: Hope exists and helps through a variety of different ways. The organization has an educational career center fully equipment with shop and automotive equipment to prepare eager learners with the proper knowledge to apply their experience with Focus: Hope to the real world. Not only does Focus: Hope want people to obtain jobs, but the organization wants people to have long, flourishing careers. In addition to trades, Focus: Hope also has professors who teach classes in engineering and mathematics. There is immense diversity amongst students; some come as a result of dropping out of high school and are trying to receive a GED, some want to get ahead for college courses and others are assimilating back into society after a stint in prison. Focus: Hope is a new start.
Focus: Hope also has a Head Start preschool and food packaging and distribution center. While there, Keene State College (KSC) students were able to box over 22,000 meals by the end of the week, feeding a plethora of people in the Detroit area.
While boxing foods, we found that the boxes we had arranged during the morning shift were currently feeding people before the job was done. 700 people who suffer from homelessness ate hot food at a nearby church because of the efforts of our KSC Alternative Break team. In addition to box prep, KSC’s group of nine delivered foods to those in need in some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the city. The group of nine included: Bailey St. Laurent (junior) and Monica Doorley (junior) as group leaders, Liz Gallacher (senior), Gabby Brzozowski (senior), Mariah Lamy (senior), Casey Sault (junior), Stephanie Ryder (junior), Sydney Olson (first-year) and Anna DePasquale (first-year).
The highlight of the week for most was working in the preschool at Focus: Hope. The kids were ages infant-6 years old and were fun, loving and adorable. They face challenges that most should not have to endure. Yet, their smiles would never have you believe it. There, we played in the gym with the kids, read them books and envied their nap time.
The trip exposed some of the awful conditions the people of Detroit have to live in. It reinforced the power of optimism and hope and showcased the overwhelming sense of pride those living in Detroit have for their city. It is an up-and-coming city, filled with bright and intelligent individuals trying to figure out how to revitalize Detroit. Construction is abundant and people are confident Detroit will reign supreme once again and enjoy financial stability.
As a leader, I cannot be more proud of the team Monica Doorley and myself brought out to Motown. Words cannot describe their compassion for others, their willingness to help and their passion for helping a community. We cannot wait to further our efforts and initiate some programs here in Keene to benefit our own community, and hopefully help the kind people we met at Focus: Hope.