Detroit honors 71 AmeriCorps on graduation day

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
From left, Bethune Elementary teammates Abbey Bradley, 23, of Grosse Pointe, Geno Gresham, 26, of Detroit, and Briana Elledge, 24, of Oak Park get Daniel Finegan, 25, of Sterling Heights to come over and join the hug after they get their diplomas at the City Year Detroit Graduation at The Beacon in Detroit on June 14, 2018. City Year Detroit AmeriCorps members participate in the lives of students and teachers at public schools in Detroit during their service year.

Detroit — This time last year, Abbey Bradley, 25, returned home to Grosse Pointe after teaching English in Peru and was job searching. A friend referred her to AmeriCorps.

For the last 10 months, she has been serving fourth-graders at Bethune Elementary on Detroit's west side through the national service program. 

City Year Detroit AmeriCorps members take the City Year Alumni Pledge at the City Year Detroit Graduation at The Beacon in Detroit on June 14, 2018. City Year Detroit AmeriCorps members participate in the lives of students and teachers at public schools in Detroit during their service year.
(Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

Bradley and 70 others mostly from the Midwest gathered for their goodbyes Thursday during a graduation ceremony for their service with AmeriCorps, which helps improve lives and fosters civic engagement, its website says.

"These last few were long weeks but they were definitely worth it," said Bradley, a 2015 graduate of Michigan State University. 

The 71 were placed at schools in Detroit:  Osborn High, Noble Elementary, J.E. Clark Preparatory Academy, Brenda Scott Academy, Gompers Elementary, Bethune Elementary-Middle School and Burns Elementary. 

Bethune Elementary teammates Abbey Bradley, 23, of Grosse Pointe, left, and Briana Elledge, 24, of Oak Park hug after they get their diplomas at the City Year Detroit Graduation at The Beacon in Detroit on June 14, 2018. City Year Detroit AmeriCorps members participate in the lives of students and teachers at public schools in Detroit during their service year.

Andrew Stein, executive director of City Year Detroit, which train AmeriCorps teachers, said the 2018 graduates were exceptional, serving "more hours and were more dedicated than any class I've seen in my 19 years" in AmeriCorps.

"You have raised the bar about what it means to be an AmeriCorps member and made me what to be a better executive director," Stein told graduates during the ceremony Thursday. "You constantly took on more and have paved the way for more to join our team."

Stein said City Year Detroit will accept 24 more members in it's next class. In three weeks, 91 new members and two additional schools will be added to the roster serving more than 1,000 new students in Detroit, 6,000 students total. 

Garlin Gilchrist II, director of the Center for Social Media Responsibility at the University of Michigan, delivered the keynote address before the graduates received their certificates. 

"Growing up on the east side, I never saw a structured (volunteer) service until I was an adult," Gilchrist said. "We need more servant leaders and less leaders who lead only for accolade. City Year embodies the value that make a place great."

New graduate Bradley said she wanted to get involved with AmeriCorps because she didn't want to allow ZIP codes to determine the destiny of a child. Her next job begins in three weeks at an east-side Detroit school through Teach for America. 

"When you cross the boarder of Mack Avenue between Grosse Pointe and Detroit, you can see how one street can create such disparity ... how one child can grow comfortably and another struggles just too get to school, only one street apart." 

The City Year Detroit AmeriCorp graduates connects with each other and Andrew Stein, left, executive director, City Year Detroit, at the City Year Detroit Graduation at The Beacon in Detroit on June 14, 2018. Also in the huddle, center, top, is Garlin Gilchrist II, executive director of the Center for Social Media Responsibiity at University of Michigan. City Year Detroit AmeriCorps members participate in the lives of students and teachers at public schools in Detroit during their service year.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_