Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a national holiday, but it’s a day of work for City Year Detroit volunteers, who stage the group’s annual MLK Day celebration on Jan. 17.
City Year Detroit, part of a national organization with links in London and Johannesburg, has been in the business of helping metro Detroit since 1999. City Year’s full-time Youth Service Corps enlists Americans (ages 17 to 24) to 10 months of community service and tutoring and mentoring schoolchildren. Four days a week, City Year Corps members visit various schools, where they provide one-on-one and group tutoring to children in need. They also staff a spring-break day camp, conduct several K-12 leadership programs, and work on community transformation and beautification projects.
In the process, they’re introduced to a view of Detroit that differs from national perceptions. Heather Nugen, 22, of Spokane, Wash., says she was surprised to find such a community-oriented atmosphere. “There are so many people here who are absolutely committed to seeing this city come back, who really believe in the future of Detroit, and who are really willing to do what’s necessary to make that happen,” she says.
Holly Fournier, 22, arrived for her corps stint armed with a little insider information. “Detroit was always kind of where I was from, even though I never lived there,” she says, referring to extended family. She cited a perk she doesn’t find back home in Arlington, Va. “It’s superficial,” she says, “but it’s nice to be here where people know about hockey and like hockey.”