Step into the Cody High School campus and the amount of activity is greater than a rock concert. People are building raised garden beds, installing adult fitness equipment, refurbishing and painting lockers and staining seats in the auditorium.
More than 2,500 General Motors employees pledged a week to help lift up Detroit’s Cody Rouge Community and many will be back for a few days in September to do more.
“This isn’t just a week of activity, this is an ongoing commitment to the Cody community,” says Heidi Magyar, director of community outreach for General Motors.
Before any work was done, the leadership of GM Cares met with the Cody Rouge Community Alliance and administrators from the three high schools condensed into Cody and to find out what they want done and prioritize a schedule.
Cody is one school that never closed even as the 2007 mortgage crisis and ongoing poverty threatened the surrounding neighborhood. Instead the school morphed into the Detroit Institute of Technology, the Academy of Public Leadership and Medicine and Community Health, each serving the southwest Detroit community with marketable skill set.
This year, students will return to a school that smells of fresh paint, lockers that open and close with ease, and a park next door with 10 pieces of really cool adult fitness equipment, including a recumbent bike and climbing stations. When they root for the Cody Comets at the field the Detroit Lions refurbished with goal posts they furnished, they will now have bleachers to sit on thanks to GM workers.
“GM employees made great progress two years ago and now we are returning to work. Our goal is a safer sustainable neighborhood where families and businesses can thrive,” Magyar says.
Teams stretch beyond the school to address needs at four surrounding elementary schools as well as cleaning up Joy Road and working to board up vacant houses. The GM employees also helped the Cody Rouge Community Alliance host a family fun day and distribute books and backpacks to all the school children.
“Our hope is to engage the surrounding residents to become a part of the Cody Rouge community and invite their friends to come, move into the neighborhood,” says Kenyetta Campbell, executive director of the Cody-Rouge Community Alliance. She was thrilled GM workers would come back in September to do more project as part of GM’s national week of caring.
Cody is one of seven metro Detroit high schools the GM Foundation has pledged to help through a $27.1 million grant to United Way. A five-year investment will help raise the graduation rate from about 50 to 80 percent. Magyar says it was one of the largest donations in GM Foundation history.
“We believe in Detroit Public School students having access to a solid education and we are committed to help,” she says.
Students took an active role in cleaning and fixing up their school alongside the GM employees.
“All these people committed to helping our school is life changing,” says Aniya Roundtree, 17, who is with the GM Student Corps, participating in a 10-week program to upgrade her community and learn life skills.
Since 2013, more than 500 students have participated in this program, earning a paycheck and giving back to their neighborhoods.
“People are working directly with me to help me become a better student and qualify for a college,” Roundtree says.
Organizations helping GM rebuild the school, the park and surrounding neighborhood include:
- Quicken Loans: Employee volunteers cleaned and painted boarded-up vacant structures and renovated a walking path at Rouge Park
- DTE Energy: DTE Care Force employee volunteers supported board-up efforts by clearing trees, assessing utilities and service reliability and planted new trees in the neighborhood
- The Skillman Foundation: Provided logistical support to all employee volunteers.
- PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers): Cleaned and painted Cody High School
- Roncelli, Inc.: Project management oversight
- Oak Pointe Church: Strong partner of Cody High School that provided onsite support with volunteers
“Together, we can make a difference,” says Magyar.
With more than 2,500 employee volunteers, the difference is day and night. Students and teachers now have a welcoming environment to learn and grow.
– Photos courtesy of General Motors