Journalism student remodels Detroit community with help of nonprofit organization

Posted on: October 21, 2016

Some people have big dreams but don’t have the confidence or power to bring them to life. However, for third year journalism student Hakeem Weatherspoon, he didn’t let doubt get in the way of making his idea a reality. After growing up in Detroit, Weatherspoon has always tried to think of ways to revitalize his neighborhood. This past summer, his hope for change led to a partnership with Life Remodeled.

Starting from scratch

Weatherspoon and his friends came up with the idea of bringing Life Remodeled to their community while they were in high school.

“My peers and I really decided that there was never a place to play when (we were) growing up,” said Weatherspoon, who believes that children who play together, grow together. “I hope that it will lessen the crime in the area. Children will be more happy in the long run.”

Life Remodeled is a nonprofit based in Detroit that selects a different neighborhood every year in which to invest money, labor, and materials. Offering $5 million dollars worth of efforts every year, the organization’s  mission strives to repair and restore these areas.

Over the summer, Weatherspoon and Life Remodeled  began to rebuild the Denby neighborhood, one of the most violent in the country, according to Weatherspoon. In just six days, starting on August 1, 2016, the transformation began at Skinner Park, but spread throughout the city impacting 300 more blocks and properties.

“It feels like anything is possible if you put the work in and follow through,” said Weatherspoon. “That's why I tell the younger people back at home ‘never let anybody tell you that you can't do anything. You are a dreamer so dream big.’”

How it went down

Around 10,700 volunteers dedicated their time to bring the residents of the community together as one. The Life Remodeled group made the results worth the long commitment. Skinner Park now has a performance pavilion with solar panels and a water catchment system, two basketball courts, a volleyball court, a pickleball court, a putting green and two horseshoe pits. In addition, 362 houses have been boarded up, 80 homes have been remodeled, safe pathways to school are now demarcated.

Weatherspoon said it was amazing to see the difference that the new additions and restorations made in the community.

“The hardest thing in my perspective was the beautification process, simply, because you never realize how dirty your room is until you clean it up!” said Weatherspoon.

Life Remodeled will continue to contribute to the Detroit mission, even though this specific project is finished.

Communication is key

Weatherspoon credits ComArtSci for giving him the voice and communication skills to execute his vision efficiently. He believes that the professors helped him to get his foot in the door toward achieving success with this project.

“In order to get funding there is a business aspect and communication allows that function to happen,” said Weatherspoon. “You have to communicate to the community, corporations, and outside people in order to get more volunteers. You also have the media in the town to speak to, so that plays a role in heavy communication!”

Weatherspoon continued to say that his main hope has been to lessen the crime and show that there is more to Detroit than its history and violence.

For more information on the 2016 Life Remodeled project, visit here.

By Emmy Virkus

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