Detroit Story Booth
This Detroit educator used a sense of community and mentorship to help a student through a personal tragedy
Patrice Wright is committed to being an advocate for her students, she said.
The Michigan State University graduate is a youth worker with Playworks Michigan, an organization that puts AmeriCorps members in schools to teach social skills through physical activities and games.
In her first year working in Detroit schools, Wright said she drew on her own experience at Renaissance High School to help her students.
“Some of the best teachers that I learned how to be a teacher from and how to be a youth worker from are in DPS,” she said. “The hearts of the teachers never change.”
When one of Wright’s students witnessed the violent murder of an immediate family member, the child returned to school the next day, she said.
The student “knew there was somebody there who cared about her, school was that safe space she knew she could come to.”
Wright told her Detroit school story as part of Chalkbeat’s Story Booth series, which began last spring with our storytelling launch event at the Charles H. Wright Museum. If you know someone with a Detroit schools story to tell — a teacher, student parent or anyone else — please let us know.
Watch Patrice’s full story below:
With no art teacher, students at this Detroit school say their talents go unnurtured
When the eighth-grade students at Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy on Detroit’s west side talk about things their school needs, they point to a classmate named Casey.
“He’s a great artist,” one student said. “He can look at a picture and draw it in like five minutes and it will look exactly the same.”
If Casey attended school in the suburbs, his friends believe, he and other talented students would have an art class where they could nurture their skills.
“They don’t have the time to put in the work with their talent because we don’t have those extra-curricular activities,” another classmate said.
The students at the K-8 school have no art, music or gym teachers — a common problem in a district where resources are thin and where a teacher shortage has made it difficult for schools like this one to find teachers for many subjects, including the arts.
While the Detroit district has committed to expanding arts programs next year, it would need to find enough teachers to fill those positions.
“People out there think we’re not smart and they always criticize us about what we do,” Casey said. “We can always show them how smart we are,” he said, but that requires “getting the type of programming that we’re supposed to.”
Chalkbeat spoke with students at the school as part of a “story booth” series that invites students, teachers and parents to discuss their experiences in Detroit schools.
Watch the full video of the Paul Robeson/Malcolm X students below and please tell us if you know someone who would like their story featured in a future story booth.
When Sharon Kelso’s kids and grandkids were still in school, they’d come home and hear the same question from her almost every day: “How was your day in school?” One day, a little over a decade ago, Kelso’s grandson gave a troubling answer. He felt violated when security guards at his school conducted a mass search of students’ personal belongings.
Kelso, a Cass Tech grad, felt compelled to act. Eventually, she became the plaintiff in two cases which outlawed unreasonable mass searches of students in Detroit’s main district.
Fast forward to August, when her three great-nephews lost both their mother and father in the space of a week and Kelso became their guardian. Today, she asks them the same question she has asked two generations of Detroit students: “How was your day in school?”
The answers she receives still deeply inform her advocacy work.
Watch the full video here:
– Colin Maloney