Crew 6: City Soldiers



The first of Detroit CLC’s 2011 crews to be featured this year is Crew 6: The City Soldiers.



City Soldiers are working hard in Brightmoor. The objective of the CS’s site is to work with Neighbors Building Brightmoor to create a series of pocket parks along the Brightmoor Chalfonte Farmway. Within the first day, the CS had cleared most of the overgrowth in the area. Within one week, the CS had completed twenty steps of the timber staircase leading down to the flood plane of the RougeRiver. In addition to the neighborhood trail already planned for crew 6, they completed another connecting trail because they were so far ahead of schedule.

By next week, Crew Leader Nathan anticipates being finished with their first site area, and ready to move onto raised beds, a fire pit, and three willow tree benches.

Almost all the crew members live in or around Brightmoor. This, they explained, was the reason for their incredible investment in their project. Gerald, a returning crew member of three years, has been working on improving the Brightmoor area since he was 10 years old. His favorite activity this year, so far, has been the step building.

Michael, whose favorite job has been cutting the trees, says, “It’s sad when people talk bad about the city. And illegally dump their garbage in our neighborhood. People live here”.

The cooperation and team morale is high in Crew 6. There is a strong bond of collective motivation that keeps everyone working as a tight unit.

It is Crew Member Barri’s first year with CLC and she says she loves it. Her favorite activities have been using the weed whip and building the stair case. In the middle of chatting, she popped up to ask Crew Leader Kisha if she needed help with the day’s snacks, then explained, “It would be shameful for someone who doesn’t live in the neighborhood to come and fix our neighborhood when we can do it ourselves”.

Josette, a four year CLC returner and unofficial team cheerleader, adds, “It’s patronizing when people outside Detroit come to ‘fix it’. We can do it ourselves”.

Other’s chime in, “Detroit isn’t dirty!’

“Yeah, there’s meaning behind what we’re doing”.

“Yeah! Come see!”

Crew Leaders Kisha and Nathan are impressed with their crew’s dedication and hard work. They explained that the progress and results are so evident that it makes the crew work harder to accomplish more. Working towards something tangible is the best motivator, according to the CL’s.

Kisha adds, “They want to work as hard as they can because they want to earn their money and produce solid results”.


Oh, The Horror!

Over the past summer, Team Mudwork used their creativity to put together an informative yet entertaining film on the possible “horrors” of not taking the proper precautions when working on a trail.  SCA crews often work with sharp, heavy tools in 90 degree plus weather in unfamiliar environments filled with endless potential for danger.  Needless to say, things can get deadly in every sense of the word!  See why you should always practice safety when working in such conditions.


Part 1:

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Part 2:

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Recycled Dreams

On October 15th, SCA Detroit youth attended the 6th Annual Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit Conference, a local gathering on environmental justice and sustainable living practices.  Led by Rhonda Anderson of the Sierra Club, SCA Detroit’s youth boarded a bus to tour the infamous Zug Island and the bordering neighborhoods (the most polluted zip codes in Michigan) in search of environmental injustices that pollute our air, land, water and lungs.  The tour revealed a massive concentration of industrial pollution stemming from a massive steel mill, oil refinery, lime, scrap metal, compost, coke, gypsum and waste water processing and a gigantic salt mine that stretches over 100 miles beneath the City.  The tour also helped SCA Detroit’s youth learn about the extensive health risks associated with such pollution and how oppressive these health risks are on the local community and environment.

The Bioneers Detroit Conference also provided opportunities for youth to enjoy a meal prepared with seasonal produce from local community gardens, meet and network with other youth and engage in “learnshops” on energy efficiency and how to use media to create community awareness.

The Bioneers Detroit Conference also served as a temporary resting spot for Nomkhubulwane (Nom-koo-bull-wah’nee), a life-sized elephant sculpture created from recycled truck tires.  Weighing at 1.3 tons and standing over nine feet tall, Nomkhubulwane is a powerful reminder of how our consumer lifestyles have disconnected us from our relationship to each other and nature.

All the while, SCA youth (Richard, Martez, Robert, Kiara and Marcus) also captured video of their experiences.

SCA Crews Drive Motor City Makeover


SCA Detroit's Schcari Wade says making a difference for Detroit is "important because I live here."


(Excerpt from SCA’s Fall issue of the Conservation Quarterly, The Green Way)

Photo credits: Kevin Hamilton, SCA

Many SCA stories are about changing a student’s life.  Others focus on changing the fortunes of a national park.  This one is about changing the mindset of an entire city.

It’s August.  A blazing sun stokes the temperature into the 90s.  The heat index is well into the triple figures.  The mosquitoes are omnipresent and voracious.

Welcome to Detroit, where a crew of local high school students is cutting a new trail through Rouge Park.  The soil is dry and hard as a half dozen teens spread out, Pulaskis in hand, to grade a stretch they cleared the day before.

“We need to get a 5% angle to make it better for bikers,” says crew member Schcari Wade.  “It’s hard work, tiring. But we’re getting the job done.”

SCA Detroit is part of a nationwide, community-based SCA program that provides outdoor summer jobs to underrepresented youth.  Some 80 students participate in the Motor City alone, and they have much in common.   The majority are in their second or even third summer with SCA.  They constantly refer to the camaraderie spawned by their diligent teamwork.  And a common theme runs through their reasons for being there.

“It feels good to be out here knowing we’re improving the city,” Schcari says.  “There’s all this talk that Detroit is raggedy, that people are leaving because of unemployment or because the city’s dirty.  We need more people like us to come out and make Detroit a place where people want to live.”

A couple of hundred yards down the trail, 17-year old Brian Moss is among four students constructing a footbridge.  A few feet below, the slow-moving water is a breeding ground for insects and Brian protects himself under a head net, hard hat and sun hat.  Perspiration streams into his eyes as he tries to read a level to ensure proper placement.

“Some days it’s hot, some days it’s raining.  There are always mosquitoes, but it’s worth it,” he states.  “ Everybody looks at Detroit like it’s so bad but we’re out here every day showing that young people are working, doing good, and make the city look good so when people come here they don’t just see the dirty things but the trails and the other environmental stuff we’re doing out here.”

Some of that other stuff includes capturing rainwater and supporting community gardens on vacant properties.  “We need a healthy outdoors to keep us healthy,” says Terrysa Green, a 19-year old who says her SCA experience prompted her to pursue a forestry degree.


SCA Detroit crew members building benches for an outdoor classroom


Another SCA crew is putting the finishing touches on an outdoor classroom behind an elementary school.  They installed a series of wooden benches under a large shade tree.  You hear birds here, not the clang of locker doors or the noise of passing traffic.  And the breeze is both cooling and calming.   When asked what they’ve learned through the experience, the group is quick to respond.  “Perseverance,” says one.  “Hard work.” adds another.  “I learned a lot about myself.”  “A new attitude.”  “That we can do anything.” “Pride.”

That’s when the conversation takes a familiar turn. “I once heard on the news that Detroit is the seventh worst city in America,” states Gregory Harris.  “That’s not accurate at all.  But it made me want to make the city better.”

“I agree.  That [reputation] is irritating,” says Kira Peoples.  “It doesn’t take much to improve your community.  Everybody can do a little something to make things better.  Just try.  I mean, it’s your city.”

Altering people’s perceptions is sometimes more challenging than transforming a landscape.  But these Detroit teens are confident their efforts are influencing public thinking.  After all, notes Chris Moore, people change their minds every day.  “But what we’re doing,” he says, “will last until…forever!”

Renewable Energy


I remember watching the movie “The Matrix” when it first came out and recall being stunned by the image of human beings being harvested for their energy.  As disturbing as this concept may be to some, today’s students are using their unbridled energy to make a difference in their own communities.

In an article written by Gregory Smith “Enlisting the Energies of Schoolkids“, students from Boston, Hawaii, California and Texas successfully advocated for and implemented anti-pollution campaigns in their own communities.  As school districts all over the U.S. scramble to meet State mandated standards in reading and math proficiency, new models of learning are shifting to place-based and community-based learning that engage our youth’s imaginations in ways that are just as meaningful and relevant.

Place-based and community-based learning is also the foundation of SCA’s Green Job Readiness Curriculum and Conservation Leadership Corps, a summer youth employment program for high school students.

Read more of “Enlisting the Energies of Schoolkids” to find ways you can engage and inspire youth in your community here.

American Eagle spotted in Rouge Park!

The American Eagle Foundation, one of SCA’s national sponsors initiated a country-wide campaign to “Reclaim the Outdoors”.  On October 3rd, 30 volunteers from the Michigan Mountain Biking Associationthe Hub of Detroit and SCA Detroit engaged in a day of trail work and riding  at the only mountain bike trail in Detroit, a two mile loop along the Rouge River in Northwest Detroit.

The projects included:

Securing an existing bridge platform

Building 2 retaining walls to prevent washout and to widen trail

Reworking tread and create drainage solutions

Defining trail borders and relocate native plantings to block off social trails

Removing felled trees and general clean-up

Thank you to all those that participated and helped make the event a huge success!  SCA Detroit would also like to thank The American Eagle Foundation, The MMBA and the Hub for their generous support!

Photo Credits: AJ Viola

Click on the picture for directions

The Rouge Park Mountain Bike Trail

Securing existing bridge platform

Reworking tread and creating drainage solutions

Native plantings

Removing felled trees

General Clean-up

Thanks everyone!

The Ugly of Detroit

Art and media are a great ways to capture a moment that inspires you.  One of those moments was captured in a poem by Michaela C., one of SCA Detroit’s Conservation Leadership Corps crew members.  Michaela wrote about an Eco-Justice Tour she attended during this year’s Allied Media Conference.  In her poem (The Ugly of Detroit), she shares her impression of the Detroit Incinerator (the largest waste incinerator in the world), Zug Island (a heavily industrialized island near the southern city limits of Detroit), Food Deserts (a condition where grocers are distant and unhealthy food is readily available) and the the Packard Plant (a symbol of mass deindustrialization and abandonment).

Check it out!

The Ugly of Detroit

The Detroit Incinerator

It all began at the waste monster

Where we receive the filth of the world

It happily swallows it all

As everything burns in flames

As our city slowly falls

It’s a beast to say the least

But does anyone truly care

That this week’s trash

Is next week’s air?

Zug Island

On to the playground

What a nice place to be

Until you notice the gases

Where the children run free

Imagine their smiles

So sweet and innocent

When life around them

Crumbles each minute

Its such a horrible sight to see

As their lungs fill with dismay

Will they ever see the light

Of drastically better days?

Liquor store in Detroit

Hundreds of liquor stores

Open their doors

We are so clueless of the problems

Can’t you see?

The food is gone!

It’s all dry!

Will anyone answer

Our silent, hungry cries?

The Packard Plant

Now we come to the abandonment

Aif full of despair

All to see is broken glass

That single lonely bear

And in the middle of it all

There is an isolated shoe

You could walk a mile in it

And still be ignorant of what its owner went through

A rally during the 2010 US Social Forum at the Detroit Incinerator. Photo credit: Langelle/GJEP

If eyes were a camera

We would see it all from a citizen’s view

Who knows of our troubles?

Only less than a few

Let us clear our lenses

Expose our naked eyes

And show the world the beauty inside

The ugly of Detroit

– Michaela C.