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Fostering a Detroit where youth are heard

We often hear adults talk about methods they have attempted to create an improved Detroit for youth. What’s a better way to do so than listening to the younger generation itself?  

Hi, my name is Wallyaldeen Alhomaidi. I was among the young people at Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) that took part in one of many listening sessions to hear from youth themselves about how this community can work better for them. 

In talking with Arab youth from southwest Detroit, our number one concern when it comes to being heard is accountability. We talked about how important it is for adults to listen to our concerns—without follow-up actions, it means nothing. We like to see actual change being brought and not just empty promises. We talked about spaces that we felt included in just by simply having someone in the room who cared. Teachers who put effort into treating us with respect, like actual human beings rather than “kids who don’t understand.”  

Another main point brought up in this listening session was how a healthy school environment plays a huge role when it comes to the way youth are conditioned. It becomes much easier to ask questions if we are conditioned to being heard. On the contrary, instances where we were not heard made it much harder for us to ask. Whether it’s being denied from hosting club meetings without a reason or an administrator assuming the worst of you, having an environment where you are treated with respect makes it much easier to feel valued and included. 

Racial and ethnic engagement, the path to inclusivity 

When it comes to diversity, many of Detroit’s schools are lacking. Though our schools may have a large population of students who look like us and share the same culture, diversity of other racial and ethnic groups is usually lacking. Many believed that this could be solved through more intentional engagement between different ethnic and racial groups. A solution could involve more cross-school activities that allow youth to interact with students from different neighborhoods. An example that was brought up was sport games with other schools where students were given a chance to engage with peers from different racial or ethnic backgrounds.  

Being able to learn about different racial and ethnic groups would promote inclusivity and fight against racism. Ignorance is why people tend to be racist against others. Ignorance can breed hatred.  

Imposter syndrome was another major concern Arab youth have, especially when it comes to moving to college with people who look different and may not share a similar cultural experience. We talked about how the lack of diversity within schools may be a connection to the effects of imposter syndrome later on in life.  

What makes Detroit feel like home 

What makes Detroit feel like home is the amazing art you can find. We talked about how seeing more art pieces, like the ones we have in downtown Detroit, would help improve how kids experience their hometown. It is great seeing different cultures represented, like a map of the Middle East in locations like Haraz Coffee House or the many paintings in Mexican Town that bring life to our city. 

Art by Wallyaldeen Alhomaidi

Art was not the only thing the youth wanted to see more of. We talked about the current public transportation system and the need for a much more reliable one. A better public transportation system would help with many things like going to the gym, getting to school, visiting other parts of the city, and much more.  

We also talked about how it would be amazing to see more opportunities in schools that could help with our career path, like job shadowing, more dual enrollment, less substitutes and more full-time teachers, and much more. We believed that there is a lack of these and many other resources that would improve our education.  

A major problem we saw was the lack of education funding. A lack of education funding is a lack of opportunities which reflects how much our government cares about us youth. 

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