I’ve been working with Brilliant Detroit for three weeks and yet I still find myself learning more and more about their place in Detroit. I think a large part of this has to do with how good they are about responding to and paying attention to the needs of their community. Brilliant Detroit is centered on literacy and kindergarten readiness, but this also radiates into sectors outside of education such as food security, housing, and family life; it is their understanding that children learn better when their basic needs are met too. This was something that was talked a lot about in my education classes, so it’s been really illuminating seeing this philosophy enacted in real life. I think Brilliant Detroit nails this given that they center themself in the neighborhoods of the people they serve. They have 8 sites in 8 neighborhoods so that they can directly interact with their communities— this has obviously changed given that the pandemic has moved their services to being remote and virtual.
Nonetheless, they still manage to serve the direct needs of their communities. For one thing, and this was one of the first things I learned when I started working with Brilliant Detroit, they’ve shifted to food and necessities distributions at their sites for the families in the neighborhoods they serve. They made this decision based off what the families they work with have said regarding accessibility to these resources. All the other activities Brilliant Detroit has in store, from it’s tutoring programs to wellness workshops have become less direct and more virtual, with educators making videos of their lessons that are then uploaded onto youtube and facebook. Many of these videos are relevant to the current moment, with center points pertaining to health and wellness and stress relief (for children and parents alike). I’ve mainly been in charge of the online tutoring program for Brilliant Detroit; I essentially make sure that students are being tutored by volunteers by matching them and helping them get into zoom breakout rooms together.
Today, the other interns and I at Brilliant Detroit had a meeting with the founder and CEO Cindy. She talked about how Brilliant Detroit approaches communities and strives to serve them. I felt like her words stuck with the actions of the org as she made a point of how the work BD doesn’t matter if it doesn’t pay attention to the needs of community members. I was made aware of the data and research that back Brilliant Detroit and why exactly they are so capable of meeting the needs of the people they work with, especially with the massive turn around that came about when the pandemic started.