Dear Past Scarlett, Congrats, You Did It! – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Dear Past Scarlett, Congrats, You Did It!

Dear Past Scarlett,

It’s unbelievable that time passes as quickly as it does and that re-reading the letter you sent me a couple of months ago gave me a greater understanding of that. You did get a couple more sunburns but none as bad as the one you had when you wrote that letter to me. On the bright side, you’re more addicted to coffee now if that’s even possible. Sorry about that!

You were so right to be excited every day for what you were going to learn working with the phenomenal women at FoodLab Detroit. The privilege of all of your coworkers being women gave you the opportunity to feel appreciated, validated, and empowered to ask questions, voice relevant information and concerns comfortably and feel whole-heartedly engaged with. 9 weeks of growth looks good on you- you are more aware of your self-worth and the importance of an uplifting, positive group dynamic. While you did develop some social media strategy skills, you focused more on the guide for “How to Plan a Sustainable Event”. This was a project that pushed you out of your comfort zone by learning how to use graphic design tools, yet it permitted you to foster the skills you already possess. By the way, you and Roselyn nailed that Community Lunch presentation, you just need to trust your Speech + Debate experience and let that excitement about working with this nonprofit shine through.

You are absolutely sad to leave Detroit for the time being but have a strong emotional connection to the local culture in Detroit and it’s entirely plausible that you will stay if life allows. Running absolutely helped you establish the layout of the area and now when a resident recommends their favorite barbecue place, Vicki’s, and gives you the cross streets- you know exactly where that is.

I know that right now you don’t have the intention of living in Michigan after graduate school, if you even stayed that long. You want to end up in DC or in the northeastern states to work with national health policy and food insecurity research. By the time you write this letter to yourself, you can absolutely see yourself living, working, and raising your family in the community here, working with local policy to magnify the efforts being done by residents and local businesses.

You are correct- Detroit is unlike any other city. I’m proud of you from day 1 being honest that you didn’t know anything about Detroit. You didn’t even know anything about bbq. Looking at this program as an opportunity to learn from the residents and integrate yourself into where they were comfortable with you fitting, that was wise. By this point in the program, last day as a DCBRPer, you’ve honestly fallen in LOVE with this city. And by the city- I mean you love the people that live here. The people that stay and want to make it better.

The perception that Detroit is a diamond in the rough was accurate at the time, but after learning how to articulate the flaws in our local governmental politics that have led to the social justice issues you already knew about- your perception is now that Detroit is one city with one true story, and that can and should only be shared by the residents and it is important to magnify THAT image to everyone who looks at Detroit as two separate cities.

I’m proud of you for making a greater effort to support urban farms and locally owned and operated businesses that have business models and ideals that align morally with you and everyone involved. Keep listening to people, keep growing through learning.

As this program ends, Scarlett, I’m happy to let you know that you truly did fully embrace everything about this program, nonprofit placement, and the city- especially the people in it.

The program has ended. You are sad. You are grateful. You are motivated.

All my love,

~ Yourself on August 2nd, 2018.

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