Reaching out, settling in: MSU outreach and admissions in Detroit

02-01-2007

I’m really excited about the momentum building around our Office of Admissions’ Detroit Outreach Office and in formalizing our presence in YouthVille Detroit, a youth development facility and after-school center located within walking distance of our Detroit Outreach Office. Our presence amidst this hub of consolidated resources that support youth, families, and children promises to be both an anchor and a springboard, helping us establish a more permanent presence in Detroit while simultaneously launching us forward into areas that will enable us to create new connections and partnerships.

As one of its primary functions, MSU’s YouthVille office will serve as a hub for focused faculty research in the Detroit area, especially research that focuses on youth, community, and economic development. It presents a prime opportunity to create an urban research lab that enables community-based research–the very heart of outreach. Faculty will be able to build YouthVille into their research plans, just as some are doing so already. I’m incredibly pleased that our faculty will have opportunities to become a more integral part of the ongoing collaborative spirit that characterizes YouthVille. Our sustained presence will help Michigan State advance our work with, and for, students and families.

We’ll be working more with schools and neighborhood groups, as well as continuing our work in economic development and family health issues. Formalizing our presence in YouthVille will enable us to build stronger connections with non-extension faculty. It will provide a link between Extension and Outreach, bringing together the resources of both to create an even stronger and more stable MSU presence.

YouthVille Detroit, a 75,000-square foot facility that serves as a single house for multiple youth and family service organizations, has already created an impressive critical mass of community organizations dedicated to supporting the success of youth. MSU is renting a 3,000-square foot suite in YouthVille, joining already established tenants such as the United Way; Big Brother, Big Sisters; and parenting programs.

Part of what’s so impressive about YouthVille is how it provides a centralized location in which youth can learn a wide range of new skills while developing positive peer and adult relationships in a safe neighborhood environment. A nominal annual membership fee gives one access to all of the common facilities and services provided. This includes access to all after-school programs, the Games Room, Cyber Café, Knowledge Center, Music Programs, Theater Programs, meals and other activities. In addition to tutoring and academic mentoring, there are art studios, fully developed music production studios, gym spaces, ceramics, basketball courts, and computer labs. It’s a high-energy, vibrant place and we’re glad to become a more integrated part of it.

The MSU space within YouthVille has been custom-designed to support a wide range of activities, especially those involving community-based research. There are two two-room suites, each consisting of an office and observation room with a two-way mirror. Other areas feature clusters of cubicles with desks with computers. There are two conference rooms, the smaller holding 10 people or so, the larger one able to accommodate up to about forty people. I envision this space as a potentially valuable site for many MSU groups and hope that those curious about the facility express their interest early on.

The facility also will allow us to bring college and department diversity liaisons to Detroit and use meeting room space to engage with specific audiences, either those interested in a specific major or specialized area of study. MSU support offices will have opportunities to provide extended and ongoing support to students and their families as they prepare for college–and as they establish connections with various units at Michigan State.

Our Office of Admissions’ Detroit Outreach Office, located in the same hub of New Center activity, recently filled two positions, so we now have three people on-staff in that single location. Plans are in place to have one of those individuals begin working in YouthVille on a regular basis during the evening hours. Formalizing MSU’s presence in the facility will enable us to provide even greater support to children and youth in Detroit, and to even better support their efforts to make it to college.

MSU’s admissions officers already visit over 120 Detroit area high schools on several occasions a year, from September to April. They’re in the schools on a constant basis, providing ongoing support and checking in on what students might need to assist them. They also work with community organizations such as La Sed; Big Brothers, Big Sisters; and youth groups in major churches and synagogues. Once admitted to MSU, we encourage students to come to the Detroit office for a visit, making it clear to them that we’re there to provide additional help on any topic or concern, be it financial aid, housing, or help signing up for orientation.

While there has been no formal ribbon-cutting ceremony for our office in YouthVille yet and a few things still need to be finalized, one thing is certain: MSU’s firm commitment to the children, youth, and families of Detroit. MSU’s YouthVille office is but the first visible step in enabling stronger collaboration and networking of MSU faculty and staff and its Extension components while focusing on the needs of Detroit. Many substantial steps forward will be taken soon. With YouthVille as one new “home base” for MSU, many will be able to explore many new paths–in many new directions.

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