Leslie H.

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“Detroit Tops Forbes List of ‘America’s Most Miserable Cities’” (Detroit Free Press, February 2013). Newspapers have been littered with headlines such as these in recent months. As a native of Detroit, I hear and see negativity all too often. We have consistently been labeled as hopeless, struggling, and “miserable.” High crime and poverty, poor schools and massive blight plague the city; condemned homes and miles of overgrown lots dot the landscape. While Detroit is seen through many eyes as dangerous and corrupt, underdeveloped and destitute, suburbs just outside the city limits are prosperous, highly developed and secure. Recently, Detroiters have been given more and more bad news, following the highly publicized corruption trials and bankruptcy, record murder rates and disturbing blight. Nevertheless, some dedicated few are working hard to resurrect the suffering city. New stores and much needed supermarkets are popping up around the downtown and Midtown area, and new retail is being proposed. I am very excited for Detroit’s revival, but understand that it will take great time and effort to achieve.

I have lived in Detroit for all of my life and had attended Detroit Public Schools until very recently. Although I live in Detroit my high school is located in the more affluent suburbs to the north. As a result I often feel stuck in the limbo between two completely different worlds. When I entered high school I was puzzled by the stigma regarding Detroit that I witnessed. It had become a source of embarrassment, as my classmates suggested, for someone to live in Detroit, attend school there, or even share its area code. I have heard many negative comments about the state of Detroit and skepticism about its survival. During the day I am enveloped in a secluded community that is removed from the problems of Detroit, yet when I drive home I am again reminded of its stark realities.

I have hope for a brighter future through local cooperation, involvement and activism. I try to be involved and engaged in the politics of the government and put forth my own time in volunteering because I would like to play a role in the resurrection of my city. Even as Detroit is labeled as a miserable and depressing environment, I have seen countless voices speaking out for the positive change that I already see growing. When Detroit prospers, so does the entire state of Michigan. I plan to obtain a business degree so that I can run a non-profit organization in Detroit that would focus on the elimination of blight in Detroit and economic development of its neighborhoods. I have long admired the work that has been done by nonprofit corporations in Detroit such as the Skillman or Kellogg Foundations. To do my part to serve society I would like to become involved with organizations, nonprofits or NGOs that proactively reach out to youth and the disadvantaged.