Detroit Design 2067
A Personal Reflection
From Kalisha Davis, Director of Community Outreach and Engagement, Detroit Historical Society
On April 2, 2018 at 8:00 am, I walked into the Detroit Historical Museum with butterflies in the pit of my stomach. Exactly two days before, my team had extended a final invitation to the 12 high school students that we hoped would join us for an alternative spring break experience now known as Detroit Design 2067.
The young people appeared to be eager to join us and the enthusiasm that was expressed by their parents was also reassuring. But would a group of teenagers REALLY give up their Spring break to attend an intensive learning experience indoors, all week? Sure they had applied to be there and the $350 scholarship was a nice incentive, but would they rise, shine, and report to our offices as early 8:30 in the morning?
At 8:10 am – the first of our students eagerly walked through Kirby Street entrance and the entire group would follow her inside not long after. It was then that I realized we had an exceptional group of young people, with an earnest desire to learn. It’s important to note, that these young people were NOT selected based on their GPAs, but their essays and leadership potential. So when our students kept their part of the bargain, I poured in every available resource at our disposal to ensure they had the best possible experience that we could create for them. We had a delicious hot breakfast and lunches prepared by our neighbors in local businesses around town. We had daily conversations with city leaders and influencers using design as the core of their work who were eager to share their efforts and lessons learned.
We had amazingly productive days filled with learning and discussion about all aspects of the history of the city of Detroit (particularly what transpired in 1967), the fundamental elements of design theory, and opportunities to apply their learning through practical application with our four partnering organizations. All of this was accomplished in one week’s time.
This would NEVER have been possible without the support of:
- Our lead instructor and program co-designer, Chanel Beebe, an engineer, activist, and former educator who crafted a unique opportunity for young people to learn about design thinking;
- Our friend and popular historian Jamon Jordan who served as our guest instructor;
- Our four dedicated community partners representing: Belle Conservancy, the Detroit Police Department (particularly Deputy Chief Todd Bettison’s office), Karasi Development Group, and the Walter P. Reuther Library. Each organization brought a problem that they were grappling with that our students worked diligently to develop a solution by their final day, April 7;
- My coordinator Katherine Brown who tirelessly dedicates herself to ensuring our planning and logistical efforts run smoothly; and
- Our guests that met with the students and shared their stories including Esther Yang, of the Detroit Planning Department, Jeanette Pierce, founder of Detroit Experience Factory, designer Carl Nielbock and the 2017-2018 cohort of Challenge Detroit.
This very special program is the result of an idea that has been three years in the making. Out of the 150+ public programs that my office has hosted, it is one of the most important efforts that we’ve launched as part of the Detroit 67 Project, to date. I’m very proud of each of our amazing students and the possibilities that it presents for the Detroit Historical Society’s future. Check out some photos from the week below (thanks to Charlotte Massey and George Young) and stay tuned for more of our youth engagement efforts, including a Youth Symposium planned for Fall 2018!