Oops! Here I finally am one month in. I guess I should introduce myself first.
My name is Allyssa Garza, I am a rising sophomore studying Political Science and International Studies with a focus on Global Health & the Environment. I am a part of Semester in Detroit, an immersive program that is run through the RC (you do not have to be in the RC though!!). In this program a small cohort of students come together in the city to take classes and participate in community based internships. The two classes I am taking are about 20th century history of Detroit, and community organizing through the lens of Environmental Justice. I grew up about twenty minutes from Detroit, but during this first month I have seen things I did not even know were here. I am learning so much about the Detroit that is not talked about in the news, and about the city’s rich history.
I am interning at Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision. They are a non-profit focused on improving the environment and strengthening the economy of Southwest Detroit. My main focus during my time here will be working at a community garden in 48217, the most heavily polluted zip code in all of Michigan. I am also working in their Healthy Homes program, going out into homes to help educate and provide materials for families that have a child experiencing asthma. I became interested in this organization because I am passionate about environmental justice and beautification. I know the importance of a garden through my own therapeutic gardening experience. I also took interest in the organization because it’s focus for its beautification efforts is on Southwest Detroit. My great-grandmother lived in Southwest off of Junction, and while I was growing up we would frequent her house. The plastic covered couches and forever-buzzing kitchen were as familiar as my own home. The ice cream cart/bike guy always riding around. Once I got into my teenage years I started to distance myself from that side of my family for many reasons, but that meant that I no longer took the trips to Southwest. I distanced myself from my Mexican heritage. I decided to intern at a community in Southwest because I want to start looking at my roots once again. I want to help this community that I turned away from in any way that is possible.
For a majority of my first month, I was attending meetings and doing data entry on the computer. I was worried that I would not be able to make my way outside to the garden. I was stuck inside the florescent lit office, when all I wanted to do was be outside with my hands in the dirt. Looking back, I now realize that things could not have been planted when I was stuck inside. Now I find myself outside almost every day, and when I am not I am making home visits for the Healthy Homes program! SDEV helps with over ten gardens in Southwest. I am looking forward to the rest of my summer with Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision and Semester in Detroit!