VIBE Goes on Service Trip to Detroit

Students volunteer with Camp Restore Detroit

During spring break 2020, eight students in VIBE (Volunteering Individuals Bring Empowerment), a student club at Inver Hills Community College, traveled with Shannon Williams, their club advisor, on a service trip to Detroit, Michigan. The students and Shannon served alongside Detroit residents and learned about asset-based community development (ABCD) in a metropolis with a population surpassing 713,000.

“Our Inver students volunteered for four days with Camp Restore Detroit,” said Shannon, the college’s community-based learning coordinator. “Established in 2016, Camp Restore Detroit was formed to provide hope and helping hands to residents affected by Detroit’s economic disaster. Detroit is the second Camp Restore location formed—the original location is New Orleans, where Inver students have been volunteering to help with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts since 2006.”

Detroit, Michigan

Shannon reported that over the course of the week, students met with and worked alongside community leaders in the 9th Precinct, one of the hardest hit areas of Detroit. In the particular neighborhood they worked in, only 25 percent of homes are occupied. The Inver Hills VIBE students spent hours helping with projects such as blight removal, trash cleanup, and organizing tools for future volunteers.

“After working hard during the day, the evenings were spent learning,” Shannon said. “Guest speakers taught the history of Detroit, explained the community-organizing model called asset-based community development (ABCD), and supplied updates about neighborhood projects and future plans.”

Shannon added that on the last day of the trip, the Inver VIBE group had the opportunity to explore and have fun in the Motor City. “In just one short day, we toured the Motown Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts,” she said. “We also checked out local shops and restaurants, and visited the International Memorial to the Underground Railroad.”

VIBE Detroit service trip gallery

Why travel to another state to volunteer?

Break Away is a national nonprofit organization that promotes the development of quality alternative break programs through training, assisting, and connecting campuses and communities. According to Break Away: “A service trip is a trip experience in which a group of college students engage in direct service, typically for a week. Each trip experience has a focus on a particular social issue, and immersion in that issue begins long before the week-long trip itself, through on-campus orientation meetings.

“Students educate themselves and each other, then do hands-on work with relevant community organizations. These experiences challenge students to think critically and compassionately—and to understand that there’s no such thing as ‘not my problem.’

“Upon return to campus, student participants are empowered to make more informed decisions and to take meaningful action that supports a greater good.”

Student perspective: Emily O’Neill

Emily O’Neill

Emily O’Neill, 41, a Minneapolis resident, graduated from Henry High School and PYC Alternative School in 1997. Emily is active in Student Senate and The Bee’s Knees Committee at Inver Hills. She is a freshman on track to graduate from Inver in spring 2022. Emily is undecided about her major as well as her transfer and career plans.

Emily works while attending Inver Hills as a community living advisor at Thomas Allen, which provides person-centered services in West St. Paul, Minnesota.

More about VIBE at Inver Hills…

VIBE Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief Service Trip

VIBE, which stands for Volunteering Individuals Brings Empowerment, is a student club open to all interested Inver Hills students. VIBE Club members volunteer in the Twin Cities metro area throughout the fall and spring semesters.

Learn a great deal more about the VIBE service trip to Detroit by following the link below:

VIBE Club Annual Service Trip

Emily O’Neill Q & A

Why did you join VIBE Club?
 I did not fully know what VIBE club was until I went on this trip. I was inclined to go on the service trip because I come from a community that has been grieving. Going to Detroit would allow me to not only serve, but to learn more about asset-based community development (ABCD) in hopes of giving back to my own community.

I am happy I joined VIBE Club because I see how awesome it is to work in service with my fellow students and Community-Based Learning Coordinator Shannon Williams.

What is your most memorable experience from your service trip to Detroit?
Although we were traveling during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was amazing to see the camaraderie that came from everyone getting involved. With a great spirit, we all pulled together to get the work done. We saw how “teamwork can make the dream work,” which is the slogan of the Detroit Mohican Regent neighborhood.

How did your volunteer work in Detroit help you better understand the meaning of community service?
Seeing Camp Restore Detroit and the community leaders in sync to better the neighborhoods was awesome. George, a community leader, told me about the first busload of students who came from Camp Restore. They got off the bus and told him that they were not intimidated by the situation. This helped motivate the community members, who were feeling overwhelmed because it was more than they could feasibly do. It was beautiful to see what a week of service could bring to their community, which is hope.

Learn more about VIBE and Community-Based Learning at Inver Hills by contacting:

Shannon Williams
Community-Based Learning Coordinator

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