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Updated 12:15 PM September 2, 2008




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Students spend summer taking 'Initiative' to help Detroit organizations

See U-M students teach and mentor children from Detroit-based Latino Family Services >

View a Spanish version of the slideshow >

Second- and third-graders at the Latino Family Services in Detroit swarm graduate student Hsun-Ta Hsu as they excitedly reach for a free toothbrush.

Hsu, who taught a workshop this summer about the importance of hygiene, is rewarding the young students for correctly answering questions that demonstrate what they learned in another lesson about coping with conflict.

"It feels good to make a difference in these kids' lives," says Hsu, who studies social policy and evaluation at the School of Social Work.
Alexandria Ballard, a senior psychology major, talks to students about their art at Latino Family Services in Detroit. (Photo by Jared Wadley, News Service)

Many students like Hsu apply what they learn in the classroom as they participate in the Detroit Initiative, which began in 1995.The program provides opportunities for students and faculty to further their education and research while serving at Detroit-area, non-profit organizations.

Latino Family Services, which serves residents in Southwest Detroit, is one of six community partners with U-M.

Students assist Latino Family Services' Youth Department in running the after-school program, which has more than 50 children ages 6-16. The children participate in various activities such as working on computers, taking field trips to destinations like the Detroit library, learning about different cultures and creating art projects.

One component involves U-M students tutoring and mentoring the youth.

"Staff at Latino Family Services appreciate the interest the U-M students have in getting to know the children and their community," says Lorraine Gutierrez, a social work and psychology professor who advises the students about their twice-weekly Detroit visits. "Our U-M students are able to see how they can make a difference through positive relationships with the children there."

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