Want to be part of a great investment?

by | Sep 25, 2011 | Comment, Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I’m looking for a few good men.

Or women. Or companies. Or churches. Or trusts.

I’m looking for partners – 11 partners, to be precise – to help people like Sherell Garrison, who, at 17, is a jewel of our city, an honor roll student bursting with potential, who, until now, was facing a limited future.

Sherell began drawing as a child on Detroit’s west side. She drew with crayons. She drew with colored pencils. She drew on any available paper and sometimes on the walls of her grandmother’s house.

“Oh, yeah, she did a lot of great work on that wall,” her father, David, recalled, laughing. “We had to wash it off, but we praised it first.”

Today her artwork – she is particularly gifted at drawing and painting people, their moods, their expressions, their facial nuances – hangs in her mother’s room, on the walls of her father’s auto glass shop, and this past week was hanging inside a gallery of the prestigious College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

Where she is a freshman.

And where the few good men – or women, companies, etc. – come in.

Projects to beautify the city

I am starting something called the Detroit Dream Scholars at CCS. It is a series of scholarships for kids from the area to realize their artistic dreams – kids who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance given the high costs of tuition.

“I knew my parents couldn’t afford it,” Sherell said. They also had her twin sister starting college (at Eastern Michigan University). Her mother, Stacy, who works as a corrections officer, told Sherell, “Keep your dreams, but have a Plan B.”

When I asked Stacy what Plan B would have been, she shrugged and said, “Probably go somewhere else.”

I have a better Plan B. Let’s help kids like Sherell stay with Plan A. As in A Scholarship.

Not a handout. An investment. As part of this Detroit Dream program, young people like Sherell would be required, every summer during the four years of school, to produce some work of art, free of charge, to help beautify our city. A mural. A sculpture. A billboard. The exterior of an otherwise ugly building.

The city is making you better?

You make it better in return.

“I’d love to do that,” Sherell said.

Of course. Like most artists, she just wants the chance to create.

I know. I was once where she is.

A chance to change a life

I was coming out of school. I wanted an education and to learn the arts, but my family could not afford the entire college tuition. I took loans. Fortunately, I was given time to pay them back (school was cheaper then), and I found a place in the creative world of writing.

I know the joy that provides. I know the inspiration it gives young people. Think of all the artists, writers, musicians, dancers, actors, directors, painters or photographers who might never have been had they been forced to stop their studies at age 18.

Detroit has a working class, a darn fine one, but it also has a creative class.

And we should nurture it.

I would not ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t, so I am funding the first Detroit Dream Scholar. Four years, $60,000 total. This utilizes all available scholarship sources from CCS and makes up the difference.

One down. I want to make it a dozen.

Would you – or your company – join me? You could sponsor one talented young Detroiter (and all of them, like Sherell, have to be top-rate students and top-rate people to even be considered) and you could watch him or her grow and go. I know there are others out there who have been blessed, as I have been, to make a living doing what we love.

Shouldn’t we share that blessing?

If you’d like to partner up – and the goal is to quickly label it “A Detroit Dozen Dream Scholars” – please get in touch via e-mail at malbom@freepress.com. The money can be spread over four years so it is not so onerous.

Meanwhile, you’ll be supporting the most important currency of this city: young, productive minds.

Not a handout, an investment. The next four summers, Sherell, through her paintbrush, will help make Detroit more beautiful. But by learning here and thriving here, she already is.

You can, too.


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