By: Daniela Tagtachian, Associate Editor Vol. 20
On August 27, 2014, the Associate Editors of the Michigan Journal of Race & Law drove out to Detroit to volunteer their time at Arts & Scraps, a nonprofit organization that serves the needs of youth in low-income areas in Detroit.
A Bit Of Background
Arts & Scraps is a non-profit organization in Detroit; it was founded in 1989. This year, the organization is celebrating their 25th anniversary. Each year, they recycle 28 tons of material and serve 275,000 children.
This organization uses recycled materials to teach youth from the Detroit metro area how to develop their creative and critical thinking skills. Currently they are working a lot with the development of projects to teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
The Volunteer Experience
They were happy to have us and we were happy to be there. We got a tour of the facility and the warehouse. During the tour of the facility we were given a lot of fun facts about the organization. For example, if students are unable to get to the site, there is a 26-foot Art & Scraps Mobile that can go offsite for shopping and learning. Our tour guide also told us about their truly impressive budget – last year it was $286,560! She also told us that over half of the budget comes from money earned though programs and products. Equally impressive is the transparency of the organization and the fact that 94% of the money goes back into the program.
When we reached the warehouse we were divided up into teams and each team was assigned to a workstation. I worked on the inventions packaging assembly line. We made over 200 packages in the time we were there. Each package had a variety of scraps – including pipe cleaners, an ice cream box, adhesive colorful plastic, foam and cloth rings. Other teams created packages for other projects; others sorted materials, and some volunteers created signs out of recycled materials.
Often times, organizations stray from their purpose; it’s easier or less time consuming to do so occasionally. In addition to the fun I had at the Arts & Scraps warehouse, I was happy the Journal stayed true to its vision and purpose. This organization works with underserved youths in Detroit with a creative mix of teaching about recycling and the environment while getting these students to develop their critical thinking skills and further develop their imagination.
Arts & Scraps offers low-income children something different to what they normally see. The environment is not typically a concern that is emphasized in school nor is the development of creativity and critical thinking. While working with inner-city students on Chicago’s south side I saw that a lot of class time was spent on discipline and following directions and the standardized state exams. It’s nice to see these children getting exposed to creative thinking and fun science activities.
The fact that they have been in a low-income neighborhood for 25 years means their business strategy works! I believe their entrepreneurial drive serves as their guarantee for moving forward. They offer services including attending birthday parties, fun activities for groups of adults, selling products created from recycled materials and of course offering classes.
I truly enjoyed this experience and I wish Arts and Scraps much success.
For more on Arts & Scraps, visit their website.