The trip is now over, and I went and did so many things that I don’t know how I am going to cover all of it in one post…but I will try. First of all, I was sadly only able to go one the first day of the trip, as I had to be back to campus early Saturday morning for a conference. My one day in Detroit, though, was one to be remembered.
The first thing we did in Detroit was visit the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. Here, our LAS class was broken up into groups and each group was paired with students from the Academy. We would spend the next couple of hours with our groups bonding with them and participating in different leadership exercises.
It was so much fun to interact with the students; you could see on their faces just how much they were enjoying themselves. After Jalen Rose, we went to the heart of Detroit and took a tour of Quicken Loans. Before we went, I had this preconceived notion of the business; it was simply a mortgage company, probably housed in some run-of-the-mill office building. One of the members of our cohort worked for Quicken Loans, and he had nothing of rave reviews, yet I did not really take them seriously. That is, until I walked into the building. Each floor was full of vibrant colors and, even on a Friday afternoon, the building seemed full of life. John Fikany, the Vice-President of the company, even came to speak to us. To be honest, his message about the company was so inspiring. I never knew just how much Quicken Loans did for the city of Detroit, and it was impossible to miss just how passionate Mr. Fikany was about the company he worked for. After touring Quicken, we then left to go tour the Detroit Institute of Arts, and what a peaceful experience that was. My second semester has been beyond hectic, and having the opportunity to just walk around and marvel at the art and its history was such a peaceful experience. I could forget about everything around me for a short while and simply enjoy myself in the silence of the museum.
So I went and saw all of these things, but SO WHAT? What was so important from these experiences, and what did I get out of them? There was so much that I learned in such a short amount of time, as the LAS in the D trip was a great leadership learning experience. At the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, I was able to see leadership everywhere, not just in my peers, but in the people that worked in the school. Once we broke off into groups, the leadership teacher from the school decided to join our group for some activities. Once he walked into the room, all the kids’ faces lit up. They were so excited to have him there, and you could tell that they wanted to complete these activities well so that they could impress their teacher. From watching how the students interacted with their teacher, I could tell a lot about the everyday environment at Jalen Rose. The teachers there put their all into their work, and the students respected them all the more for it. Their passion for their work did not go unnoticed, and the teachers wanted nothing more than to see their students succeed.
This seemed to be a common theme down in Detroit; all of the leaders that I saw worked their hardest for the community of people around them. While at Quicken Loans, we heard about all the time and money that they were putting into the city of Detroit. The company owns a majority of the buildings in downtown and they are even trying to expand. They want to open restaurants and rejuvenate the life in the heart of Detroit.
One of the greatest examples of selfless leadership that I saw while in Detroit was in John Fikany. Mr. Fikany, before coming to Quicken Loans, was General Manager and Vice President of Microsoft’s Enterprise Sales and Partner Group. He left one of the most well-known companies in the country (in the world even) for Quicken Loans because he was so passionate about their missions and their commitment to Detroit. And, to me, that is what separates a good leader from a great one. It is someone who can look past their own personal gain and work for a cause they are truly passionate about.
With this experience, I was definitely left wondering now what? I was exposed to so many different experiences in just a short amount of time, and I was left with so many ideas and opportunities. Shortly after I returned to campus, I submitted an application to Quicken Loans for a summer internship. I was truly inspired by their companies message, and it amazed me how much they wanted to do for the city of Detroit. Their passion made me wan to join their team, so that I could learn the skills to one day expand on my passions just like they have.
Anyone who says Detroit is dead could not be more wrong. The city is expanding and life is being put back into it by the minute. Yes, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done, but there are thousands of people who are willing to put in that time and effort.Detroit and its city leaders need to have the same passion for revitalizing the city as the people at Jalen Rose and Quicken Loans do. If everyone were to put their heart into the city, and not worry about their own agendas, then Detroit will soon be restored to its former glory. Or, better yet, it will come back better than ever.
This trip showed my that nothing is ever worth giving up. Whenever I am down and stressed, I can think back on this trip and know that giving up is not an option. Things may be down for a little while, but I (just like the city of Detroit) can come back again and again. Life will knock us down but the only thing preventing us from getting back up is ourselves.
One of the biggest messages I will take away from our LAS in the D trip came from the students at Jalen Rose. I have never seen a more dedicated group of students in my life, who wanted nothing more than to go to college and create a better life for themselves and those around them. There was one girl in my group who had applied to twenty-seven different colleges. TWENTY SEVEN. I thought that I had done a lot by applying to five. This girl was determined to attend a university, something that no one in her family had ever done before. This level of determination is something everyone can learn from, and it also taught me to never take anything for granted. Being able to go to college was never something I had to worry about; growing up, it was expected that I would go. But seeing all of these students spending the time to fill out all of these applications and put in all this work for the opportunity to continue their education is beyond admirable. I hope to one day have this level of dedication, and have the drive to work for something as hard as the students at Jalen Rose do.