Flipping burgers, mowing lawns, stocking shelves, toting golf clubs. These are the kinds of summer jobs you might have had growing up. In Detroit, however, where the unofficial unemployment rate hovers at around 50%, even these minimum-wage gigs can be few and far between. But in Brightmoor, a neighbrohood on Detroit's west side, teens are spending their summers learning and in some cases mastering crafts, and getting paid for it.
Detroit Community High (DCH), a public-charter school in Brightmoor, employs over 50 students each summer in one of five micro-enterprises; woodworking, gardening/landscaping, apparel design, bike mechanics, and this year for the first time, multimedia storytelling.
What follows is a story about DCH’s “Entrepreneurship in Action” program, told by the program’s apprentices and their instructors. This multimedia package was created by DCH students with the guidance of Zak Rosen and Renee Gross and was supported by the Max M. and Marjorie Fisher Foundation, City Connect Detroit: Grow Detroit's Young Talent, Community Connections, The Malama Foundation and The Michele Schara Artist & Designer in Residence program at the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan.
In 2011, the Brightmoor Woodworkers started making and selling high-quality, hand-crafted wooden signs in the community. Today, the group operates as both a community service for the production of signs in the neighborhood, and as a business for individuals and organizations that can afford to pay for the work (10 bucks per letter)! The program incorporates workforce development skills out of the apprentice, journeyman and master model and requires those students who have attainded proficiency in their craft to become peer trainers for the next round of youth workers.
Ty Petrie is the woodworking instructor. Brianna Mcgee is a woodworking and storytelling apprentice.
Here they are in conversation.
"One time I chopped off the tip of my finger...but it grew back."
Brianna and Ty
In 2012, students from the UM Stamps School of Art & Design came to work with DCH students as part of a course called “Detroit Connections: Change by Design.” As part of their work together, they developed new logo ideas for the school. As a result of this collaboration, a silkscreen printing business called DCH apparel emerged. The fledgling business entered the Detroit Soup contest (a Detroit-based, micro-funding project) and won enough money to purchase the necessary equiptment to sustain the business and begin taking orders in the community.
Brightmoor Bikes and Trailers is a student-led/student-run business for the repair and maintenance of bicycles for sale in the community. As part of the "Earn-A-Bike" program, middle school and high school students work with trained mechanics to attain proficiency. This enables them to become part of the bicycle repair team that will eventually lead to the production and manufacture of cargo carriers. Additionally, the Brightmoor Woodwokers and the Brightmoor Bikes and Trailers will collaborate to rehabilitate, restore and resell 100 industrial tricycles that have been donated by Ford Motor Company and UAW-Ford.
A young Brightmoor resident with the DCH Bikes and Trailers crew, volunteering their services at the Smith Homes
As part of their community work, the Brightmoor Bikes and Trailers spent a day at the nearby Smith Homes this summer, offering their services to the community, free-of-charge. Justin Williamson (a bike mechanic himself) and Brianna McGee were there with recorders in-hand.
"You're a veteran too!"
Young people learn all phases of gardening operations from seed planting to harvesting. They learn to construct cold frames, raised beds and their own market gardening stand. They will come to understand the natural growing cycles such as when to sow seeds in the greenhouse, and when to move them outside for planting. During the spring, summer and fall, the students will operate their own on-site market garden to serve the Brightmoor and Cody-Rouge communities. Detroit Community Market Garden has been preparing for this since the summer of 2010 when the youth constructed a garden shed; in the summer of 2011 they erected a gazebo; and during the summer of 2012, a greenhouse was installed.
"Gardening is a lot of work."
"Have you been transformed by this program?"
In 2014, DCH students and UM Stamps School of Art & Design students in a course called “Detroit Connections: Sound and Story” spent a semester honing their storytelling skills and developing personal audio narratives. DCH radio club emerged as a continuation of these projects, in order to provide DCH students with the opportunity to tell stories about their community, school, and lives through sound. During the summer of 2014, Justin Williamson and Breanna McGee worked to document the unique youth employment initiatives taking place at Detroit Community High. Drawing on the experiences of the club's founding mentors and apprentices, the radio club has become an experiement in conversation, community-based storytelling and documentary arts.
Justin Williamson and Renee Gross, DCH Radio Club
"We come because we just love it."
Brianna McGee and Zak Rosen, DCH Radio Club
Detroit Community High's Entrepreneurship in Action program is made possible with support from the Max M. and Marjorie Fisher Foundation, City Connect Detroit: Grow Detroit's Young Talent, Community Connections, The Malama Foundation and The Michele Schara Artist & Designer in Residence program at the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan.
Curbside Economics was produced by
...with help from Bart Eddy, Charlie Michaels and Nick Tobier, and Stephanie Rowden