University interns and urban redevelopment

University students can play important roles for urban non-profit organizations.

Detroit has numerous non-profit organizations that work throughout the city on a variety of topics. One such organization that focuses on urban and neighborhood revitalization is the Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation (JSCDC). The organization operates on a very broad mission that allows it provide health services to limited resource families, housing revitalization, a farmers market, commercial redevelopment along Joy Road as well as other important neighborhood efforts.

However, in spite of the success of the CDC, finding funds to support staff and cover administrative costs is always challenging. One way the JSCDC addresses some of its staffing needs is by using the services of state universities through student practicum classes and internships. The practicum classes are senior projects that students must complete while working in teams. The goal is to provide real-world projects for the students to complete before graduation.

The other relatively inexpensive way to get assistance is hiring interns. Many of these students are looking for internships for credit hours toward graduation or for paid summer jobs; JSCDC has used both. In 2013, they worked with a class from Wayne State University to develop a corridor study for portions of Joy Road, west of Southfield freeway. The developed plan is being used to establish economic development activities for the aging business corridor adjacent to Joy Road.

The non-profit is also using an intern to assist in the reestablishment of a Joy Road Business Association and to write grants to the numerous foundations and other funding sources that generally support urban redevelopment and neighborhood revitalization.

Students can prove to be an invaluable resource for technical assistance and can supplement staffing needs that non-profits face. They can be an effective way to deal with an ever increasing problem – finding funding sources that are willing to fund administrative and staff support for the local non-profits working to improve local Detroit neighborhoods. According to Michigan State University Extension, students can be a mutually beneficial resource to your organization.

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