Our programming embraces reciprocity and shared construction of meaning through creative expression. College students from University of Michigan and youth in Detroit schools share resources with one another to learn, create, and grow together. Through these collaborations, participants develop a mutual recognition of and appreciation for each others strengths and needs. This process leads to a deepening of individual potential and agency for all of the participants.

Detroit Connections is a powerful learning experience for the college students in the class. This engaged educational experience takes them beyond the University and leaves them enriched in many ways.

Understanding of reciprocity

As the college students share their resources, they discover that youth also have resources to share with them. Through the resilience, strength, and creative energy of creative collaborative processes, our students begin to understand how a reciprocal relationship can address both assets and needs.

Development of leadership skills

As mentors, our students quickly come to realize the importance of their words and actions. They are responsible for researching and developing curricula that build off a variety of disciplines and then acting as leaders in their relationships with Detroit youth.

Expansion of capacities of compassion

Through the intense interaction with youth, college students grow in their own
humanness and see how their actions can change lives.

Our program encourages Detroit youth to pursue their creative talents and interests in and outside of the classroom.

We believe that this experience of working with college students has the ability to empower youth living in often difficult circumstances to become excited about learning, exploration, school, and their own futures.

We embrace the following core principles:

Validate through intimate mentor-student relationships

The artistic process occurs with the validating presence of the college students who admire, listen to, celebrate and spend time getting to know their partners.

Provoke creativity by presenting accessible, challenging curriculum

We present open-ended curricula, utilizing a wide range of arts materials, to promote a sense of wonder and play. Inspired by an arts-centered, constructivist approach to learning and teaching, our curriculum emphasizes exploration and play with materials. We focus on the process, as much as the product, of the art and design experience.

Support academic skills

Working with classroom teachers to identify key academic and social needs, we develop art and design projects that strengthen cognitive processes shared with other school disciplines.

Co-create and share resources

Mentors and students collaborate on projects, and respond to one anothers work throughout the course of the semester.

Emphasize and promote studio habits-of-mind

We help our youth build important skills, such as developing craft, persistence,
observation, and reflection. Research has shown these “studio habits-of-mind” enable improved learning across the rest of the school curricula.

Exhibit and celebrate the youth work

In addition to an end of semester in-school celebration, we exhibit the work of our youth annually at WORK • Detroit gallery, in the University of Michigan Detroit Center. These events are a joyful way to validate the experience for our youth, celebrate the relationships and projects that developed over the course of the year, and share these accomplishments with a broader community.

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