Tenth Graders Navigate Detroit’s Borders and Boundaries

The Academic Research Program develops the necessary skills, resources and knowledge for students to perform an independent project with the clear goal of contributing to an ongoing scholarly discourse. Across four years of study, students learn what scholarly research is and how it functions in educational conversations. They practice the research process in their coursework and acquire a broad spectrum of credible sources to tap during problem-solving. They create outcomes and share their results with peers and the community. Students graduate with a project they initiated and completed over the course of four years.

Tenth Grade students practice the research and writing protocol across the curriculum as part of ongoing sessions devoted to pragmatic topics situated in the landscape of Detroit. Moving beyond the classroom, students immerse themselves in local and contemporary situations, experiencing an environment ripe for investigation. Interactions with the arts, natural resources, city government, ethnic neighborhoods and other Detroit features train students to apply the skills and processes they possess.

The Sophomore class began their second session of the Academic Research Program (ARP 10) on Thursday, January 23 at The Detroit Historical Museum. Tours encompassed various exhibits: Frontiers to Factories, America’s Motor City, The Arsenal of Democracy, and The Underground Railroad. Students also participated in an activity to provide them with strategies for viewing artifacts as primary sources when conducting historical research. “It was a great day,” explains Jack Ninivaggi, “I learned a lot.” Rita Sidhu appreciated the Motor City exhibit “because it showed a lot of the history of a part of Detroit we know and take great pride in.” Alexander Dow thought “the exhibit donated by Kid Rock was really cool.” For most of the students, this was their first trip to the Historical Museum, which has preserved our region’s rich history through the collection and conservation of artifacts.

On Friday, January 24, the tenth-graders returned to The Walter P. Reuther Library to explore the borders and boundaries in and around Detroit and the advantages and challenges of these demarcations. Using a protocol designed to include time to read, collaborate, reflect, and summarize, students looked primary and secondary documents with maps, stats, articles, photographs, and literature. Isaiah Hines Bailey explained, “The question about borders lends itself to different ways of looking at it. Our group started out stating that race creates borders, but then Molly [Murphy] noted that religion also determines where a family might live. So, we came up with labels that define socio-economic status, way of life, level of crime, and friendships: money, neighborhoods, jobs, and education.” Groups presented their ideas on the most important border or boundary to a panel consisting of Mr. William LeFevre, reference archivist at the Reuther Library, Stacey Stevens, Freda Sampson, Theresa Tran, Jessica Best from The Michigan Roundtable, and Mr. David Nicholson a member of Wayne State’s Board of Governors and a trustee of the Detroit Historical Society. Associate Dean of Faculty, Mr. Bart Bronk, “liked that the students had to grapple with difficult questions posed by the panel.” The panel also provided historical and political contexts for further explorations to consider. Brett Abdelnour compared this experience to September’s when they were asked to identify Detroit’s three most important icons or institutions, “This time I understood the expectations so I chose to be more engaged and I found the question to be more interesting.”

Written by: Shernaz Minwalla, Director of the Academic Research Program

Senior Project: Focus: HOPE by Taniesha Williams

Our seniors spent the last three weeks of school in the real world, working somewhere of their choosing as part of our Senior Project program, our 41-year-old capstone of a Liggett Education. We’ve asked a few to reflect on what they are doing. Here is another installment.

Taniesha Williams

Taniesha Williams

I recently completed my senior project at Focus: HOPE.  My project advisor, Amy Costello (’04), runs a program for high school kids in metro Detroit called Generation of Promise, which promotes leadership and inclusion of diverse cultures.

I had previously attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference and I was a leader of the Student Diversity Leadership Club.  So, when I learned about this opportunity, I jumped at the chance. I had also moved from going school in Detroit to going to school in Grosse Pointe which gave me a set of experiences that made me more interested in issues of diversity.

My duties at Generation of Promise consisted of preparing materials for the new class that will be starting on their journey in Generation of Promise this summer. I made phone calls to admitted students, created nametags, stuffed folders, and logged evaluation information from the past class on the computer.

The preliminary work that it took to create the program was time consuming; however, I did have the opportunity to learn some things for myself. I offered my opinions on what kids might want to talk about to be more accepting of each other by creating a multicultural resource guide. I was also able to research a lot of interesting books and articles about the improving race relations (a lot of which  have made it to my reading list this summer).

Although I was unable to be a part of the actual program, I really enjoyed my time at Generation of Promise. Going into the office every day helped me realize that we need programs like this in the city (and the surrounding suburbs) to really become a community across racial lines, religious practices, and ZIP codes.

By Taniesha Williams