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Local Students Answer 'If I Were Mayor' of Detroit in Essay

Communities in Schools of Metropolitan Detroit ask kids to give Mayor Mike Duggan advice on rebuilding the Motor City

What does it take to rebuild the Motor City? Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan will likely give you a complex answer—or maybe he's just overthinking it.

Education initiative Communities In Schools of Metropolitan Detroit (CIS) hosted a citywide essay contest last month that put kids in the mayoral hot seat to ask: If you were mayor, what would you do? The result is the coolly candid honesty of children on how to solve the city's problems and prevent new ones.

"I think … not trying to be mean, I think that's kind of stupid," says 12-year-old Nana Obeng, about Detroit's bankruptcy. Nana is an incoming eighth grader at Carver STEM Academy. But before you lecture her about bad language, she's got her reasons: "Because if you organize better, with financial plans, you won't go bankrupt because you will always have a backup plan."

She adds: "Get a business plan."

Incoming Clippert Academy seventh grader Kenia Contreras, 12, seems to already have one.

In her essay, she outlines several ways to increase the city's treasury, including: "Make abandoned buildings into museums so we can get a lot of tourism."

The essay contest is designed to teach children about problem solving and government, says Sonja Allen, chief executive officer of CIS. Founded in 1995, CIS is an affiliate of the national Communities In Schools, an organization focused on preventing K-12 students from dropping out by providing a system of support.

Such support is key in stopping gang violence, says incoming Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School fourth grader Michael Davis Hawkins, 9.

"Cleaning up the city and ending gang violence is important to me," says Michael, whose mom was robbed on her way home from work.

To prevent crime, James Peterson, 11, an incoming sixth grader who also attends Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School, thinks abandoned houses should be torn down and city services enhanced.

"Hire more police officers, firefighters and EMS workers. After a sufficient amount of workers have been hired, they would be accountable for poor and delayed response time."

Spoken like a true leader.

Beginning this school year, CIS will hold a "welcome back" community of support orientation for each of its affiliated schools. Currently CIS serves 23 schools in four districts, including Detroit Public Schools, Ecorse Public Schools, Educational Achievement Authority and Ypsilanti Community Schools.


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