Sixteen Albion College students will get an intensive look at what it will take to revitalize downtown Detroit next week. The students will lodge at the historic Fort Shelby Hotel from Jan. 11-15 as they participate in the Sleight Student Leadership Conference.
Chelsea Denault, a junior from nearby Clinton Township majoring in history, worked with Al Pheley, director of Albion’s Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service, last summer to develop the plans for the conference. She hopes to introduce Albion students to the city and inspire new hope for the future.
“Detroit is an amazing city that drove the world,” Denault said. “I want my fellow students to realize change comes from the grassroots level and it is a city of great potential. Change doesn’t come from politicians and business leaders.”
The students, who have demonstrated leadership skills on campus, were nominated by College academic departments. In addition to Denault, the class roster includes Edward Bachle of Troy; Jessica Baird of Palatine, Ill.; Peterson Cullimore of Attica; Katherine DeVoursney of Muskegon; Casey Hoffman of Menominee; Darrian Hollonquest of Detroit; Jessica Jones of Clinton; Nora Josaitis of Boca Raton, Fla.; Amber Myers of Midland; Kaitlyn Pospiech of Grand Rapids; Alexander Seasock of Allen Park; Michael Simon of West Bloomfield; Christin Spoolstra of Valparaiso, Ind.; Abigail Walls of Dearborn; and Cody Yothers of Harbor Springs.
John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press reporter and author of Reimagining Detroit, will deliver the keynote address to the group the evening of Jan. 11. Dan Austin, author ofLost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City's Majestic Ruins, is scheduled to speak to the class at lunch Jan. 12.
“The [class roster is made up of] really brilliant students,” Denault said. “The purpose of the conference is to help the students create a network and to open the possibilities.”
The students will tour Detroit the morning of Jan. 13 as well as complete small-group projects focused on revitalizing Detroit. One of the sites Denault is excited to show off is Earthworks Urban Farm.
“I’ve always been a fan of urban farming and Detroit has potential with the amount of vacant land,” Denault said. “The Eastern Market is one of my favorite parts of the city, and if urban farming takes off it will make the Eastern Market more vibrant.”