Four things I learned from three years at Motown Mission Experience

This summer marks the third year I have worked for Motown Mission, so I would like to share the top four things I have learned from working at this outstanding nonprofit in Detroit.

  1. Working in the City of Detroit: Detroit is often depicted as a dangerous place full of crime. In three years working in the city, I have never run into any problems, in fact, the Detroiters who I have worked with are outstanding people who care about revitalizing their communities. This city has been through a lot, but it continues to work towards a stronger community and a better future. Detroit is an exciting place right now; there are many new businesses entering and thriving in the city, Detroit is considered the U.S.’s capital of urban farming, and there are many block clubs around the city working on improving their neighborhoods.

  2. Serving alongside the people of Detroit: Our goal at Motown Mission is not to just work for the people of Detroit, it is also to work alongside these people to transform peoples’ lives, the city, and the world. The people we work with are grateful to have help completing a home repair job that they have needed for years, or for working alongside the volunteers on an urban farm to provide fruits and vegetables to a community where good produce is scarce. Detroiters have been resilient throughout the tough years, and they are ready for the city to make a comeback. Serving with motivated and driven people is what makes the Motown Mission Experience such a unique experience. It is important to remember that we are not here to ‘save’ the city or its residents; instead we focus on bringing awareness to the work that still needs to be done, and to lend an extra hand to work where it is needed.

  3. Project Coordinating:This has been my first summer project coordinating for Motown Mission and it has been exciting and challenging. Before the groups arrive at Motown, they send in preferences for the work they want to do for the week; whether it is light home repair, gardening work, demolition, etc. It is then my job to take these preferences and create an ideal work week full of different projects and nonprofit work from around the city. Some days it can be a challenge to coordinate between project partners and volunteers, but I enjoy seeing the volunteers come back from their work day and tell me how great their service experience was.

  4. Working with Volunteers: Volunteer groups are what make Motown Mission so special. Groups come from all over the country to serve in the city of Detroit and every group is unique and brings its own set of gifts to the city. One of my favorite parts of working at Motown Mission is watching the youth experience a transformation in their love of service and their appreciation for the city. Volunteers’ enthusiasm for service is the reason I return to Motown year after year.

I always tell people who are interested in working at Motown that it will be one of the best/worst summers of their life. Motown has presented its fair share of challenges, and helped me grow tremendously personally and professionally. These summers have been wonderful, and I would like to thank all of the MME staff members that I have worked with and the volunteers for that.

Kaitlyn Szczypka is a senior at Michigan State University, studying public policy and history.