When this program began, I was worried that Covid-19 would mar my experience working with the Detroit community. I was concerned that virtual communication and working remotely would hamper my ability to connect with my coworkers and peers and that I would in turn struggle to self-motivate. Arriving at the end of this program, I realize that I was somewhat right to worry about those things but also that instead of marring my experience, they made it more meaningful. I was able to connect with my DCERP fellows despite the occasional awkwardness of evening Zoom calls. I was able to create my own motivation so that I could contribute meaningful work to my site. Despite being many miles away from the actual city of Detroit, I was still able to pitch in and help the community during an especially hard time. My letter to myself from the first week was about opportunity. I told myself that I had an opportunity to be of service and to do meaningful work, and I think that I succeeded in taking that opportunity.
I learned a lot from this program and from this experience. From long phone calls with my site supervisor to the group presentations in our cohort meetings, I was always learning something new. I gained new knowledge and perspective not just about the city of Detroit, but also about communities more broadly. I learned about the complicated web of systemic racial biases facing the residents of Detroit and people of color across the country. I learned about how people interact with their community and how community leaders interact with their people. The Covid-19 pandemic and the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor both had a strong influence on the direction and outcome of the program this year. They brought more attention to the severe inequities in our country’s health and policing systems, and we in turn focused much of our learning on those two things. Despite learning a great deal about how corrupt and unjust our society is, I am actually coming out of this experience with more hope for the future. Seeing the amazing support for the Black Lives Matter Movement as well as learning about the smaller things that grassroots advocates and nonprofits are doing to help their communities has helped me stay optimistic that we are moving in the right direction.
I came into this program worried that it would not live up to my pre-pandemic expectations. I can honestly say that it exceeded them, and it was the relationship I had with my supervisor that really made all the difference. Pat Bosch was incredibly supportive, understanding, and generous in every aspect. She made it possible for me to work at my own pace and was very encouraging throughout the several weeks that we worked together. She was always very intentional about emphasizing the importance and usefulness of the work I was doing, which made me feel appreciated, motivated, and like I was a part of the team. I’m genuinely worried that my next boss will be a letdown in comparison with Pat.
I’m very grateful to Ray Wang and all of my cohort fellows for making this program such a fulfilling experience. We went on this journey together, and I would say that it was well worth it. I feel that I’ve grown in both knowledge and perspective thanks to our diverse group of kind, compassionate, and talented people. I’m looking forward to seeing what we all accomplish in the future, but in the mean time keep being awesome!