For a private high school, raising money to help families afford tuition is usually accomplished by holding a fundraising dinner or creating a walk-a-thon. Instead of following the norm, U of D Jesuit High School created Pledge Detroit where their students get pledges for a day of service to the City of Detroit.
This year, their efforts focused on Belle Isle, Historic Fort Wayne and Palmer Park. For the young men cutting a new trail through Palmer Park, giving back to the community the school resides is the type of positive effort the city needs.
“The fact that I get to come to my own neighborhood to help out, even something as small as making a trail can have a big impact,” says junior Kendall Poindexter. “If someone is walking with their son and they’re having a good time, that’s making a big impact on a city that’s been hit hard.”
For one of two remainig Catholic high schools in Detroit, service to the community is a part of its mission. It is a part the students enjoy helping uphold.
“Pledge Detroit shows what we’re all about. It demonstrates we are a school that’s here to help out Detroit,” notes junior Ryan Keast.
The students worked on spreading wood chips on a new trail at Palmer Park, the first new trail in the park for several years. A partner of People for Palmer Park spent several hours cleaning up the existing trails by eliminating the invasive species of trees in the park and raising the canopy of trees near the trails. The wood chips the students were spreading were made from the trees taken down in that clean-up effort.
It is part of a plan to restore the park to the vision for the area held by the person who donated the land for the park, Senator Thomas Palmer. The Lake Francis wetlands, the log cabin and the historic fountain are among the list of things the People for Palmer Park wish to restore in a collaborative fashion.
According to Helen Broughton of Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative and People For Palmer Park, the community really appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with volunteer efforts like Pledge Detroit because it is helping them strengthen the surrounding community.
“The energy of the youth and to have them all come and take care of one job for us is amazing. It’s more than we as a small group can do right now,” she says.
The students enjoy the day of work in the parks, too, comments Holly Bennetts, college counselor for U of D Jesuit High School, and the work fits in well with the mantra of the school … forming men for others.
“The more things we can do close to our area, the better for us because we are stewards for our area as well,” she says. “They (the students) love it, its physical labor. Being guys, they want to do something physical and this is perfect for them. It gets them out, it gets them working and they can see their progress.”