Motown Mission opens a young woman’s eyes to the possibilities of God’s grace.
Motown Mission Summer Staff
As the 2017 season of Motown Mission comes to a close, it is crazy to think about how much this summer and my tenure here has meant to me. This year marks my fourth and final summer working at this transformative organization. My life has been touched by the people whom I’ve had the privilege of working alongside over the years and the numerous opportunities that this remarkable summer job has afforded me.
My first summer working at Motown was in 2013. I had just completed my freshman year at Michigan State University and my life was in transition. I had recently decided that I no longer wanted to continue studying engineering and I was anxious about starting a new path studying political science and history. With this anticipation of my sophomore year at college, I was hired on by Carl Gladstone as a general intern for Motown Mission, a nonprofit in Detroit that I was eager to experience and serve.
I had no idea what God had in store for my life that summer.
My first summer at Motown went by so fast. I was learning so much about the organization, the volunteers, Detroit, the resilient residents, and God’s work transforming the city. I met so many wonderful people and worked on many project sites alongside volunteers. I made meals with fellow staffers and learned the ropes of nonprofit service. We had many talented staffers that summer and we were all able to successfully facilitate the volunteers’ experiences. It was the busiest summer of my life at that point (we would work from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.) but it was one of the most rewarding experiences.
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I knew as soon as the summer was done that I wanted to go back to serve at Motown again. I was also interested in recruiting staffers who would work well and be great team members for Motown. I reapplied that fall, and in spring of 2014 Carl called me up to tell me that I was invited back to work that summer. All three of the interns that I recommended to apply for the summer were also hired on.
My second summer was a little different than my first. I was a returning staffer along with my good friend, Cam Davis, and we knew how the program functioned. I had difficulties with trying to recreate how things worked my first summer, and it took me a while to reconcile that things didn’t have to be replicated for Motown to be successful. The new staffers and circumstances of the summer required new approaches for things to work out. In the end we were able to come together as a staff with our various strengths and weaknesses to make the summer meaningful for our volunteers and to make a difference in the lives of the people that were serving alongside in the city.
The third summer I worked at Motown brought its own unique set of circumstances and challenges. There were many different personalities on staff and we all had very different ways of approaching different situations that came up throughout the summer. Motown was bursting at the seams in terms of volunteer capacity–we had over 750+ volunteers choose to serve with us that summer. We brought on new project partners and changed our model for how we distributed service work for our volunteers throughout the week. Through the ups and downs, our staff was able to continue to support the transformation of our volunteers, project partners, and all those we served alongside in the city. This summer was the most challenging, but the bonds of the staffers were very strong at the end because of it.
In 2016, the summer after my first senior year, I was not able to work at Motown in the summer. By that time I was earning a dual-degree in Public Policy and History while simultaneously minoring in Spanish and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. If I wanted to graduate within five years, I needed to take summer classes for the first time in my academic career.
I was disappointed that I couldn’t serve, especially since it was a time of big transition for Motown. The Rev. Carl Gladstone, founder/director of Motown Mission, took on a new position in the United Methodist Church and the Rev. Sarah Alexander, a deacon in the UMC, was appointed as the new director. There also was a change in the staffing model of Motown. In years past, there were about 8-10 general interns; now there are five staff members with specific job expectations. Sarah did invite me to work for one week when there were many volunteers coming to serve at Motown. That week getting to know the staff and working alongside them was one of the best weeks of my summer.
At the beginning of my second senior year I was facing an impending and significant transition yet again. I needed to figure out what I was going to do after graduation. I decided that I did not want to go to grad school right away; I needed a year off from academia to decide if I truly wanted to earn another degree. So I considered different options to see what I wanted to do next.
After a few conversations with Sarah about what it would look like if I returned to Motown and if my knowledge accumulated from three years of experience under the old staffing model would be helpful under the new model, I decided that a fourth summer as a staffer would work out.
My fourth summer was by far one of the best summers that I experienced. In 2017 we had a strong team that had a great dynamic. We all made use of our various talents and gifts to provide a transformational experience for our volunteers, project partners, and neighbors. God was at work in this experience and I am very glad that I was able to serve at Motown for one final summer.
Without Motown, I would not be the same person. Over the years I have met amazing people and I have had the privilege of working with incredible project partners. If it were not for Motown, I would not have my current jobs as the Volunteer Coordinator at the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, the project partner that I worked closely with as a Motown staffer, or my job as the Children and Youth Ministries Coordinator at Metropolitan United Methodist Church, the host church of Motown Mission. The staffers that I have worked alongside over these years are some of my closest friends.
I am grateful for all of the staffers, volunteers, project partners, and residents that I have worked alongside during this time. If you have been part of my journey, thank you. I thank God for the experiences I have had at Motown and how these experiences have shaped who I am today.