What can happen when you give someone who has failed ─ sometimes in a big way ─ a chance to be trusted again with the responsibility to serve others? I’d like to tell you about some volunteers who have gone through substance abuse treatment and housing programs for the homeless at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM). They are giving back through their volunteer work at Finney High School.
These are men and women who have wrestled with criminal behavior, addiction or homelessness – sometimes with all three. Through the generosity of supporters of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, they found the time and opportunity to become whole again. Instead of going forward with their lives without looking back at lessons learned, they have chosen to reach out and serve others in their community. Thanks to Finney High School Principal Alvin Ward, they have been given a leadership role in helping high school students. “They patrol school halls, report students in the hallways after the bell rings, encourage the students to be in class on time, and act as mentors by listening and sharing their experiences with the students so they can encourage them not to follow a negative path in life. They have helped create a better learning environment,” he said.
The results have been dramatic for everyone who has taken a chance on the volunteer project. Violence has been dramatically reduced, and teachers are able to teach students without disturbances sidetracking the educational programs. Finney High School recently achieved its first marking period in which the student body’s grade point average reached the 2.0 + grade point level, due in part to the involvement of DRMM’s volunteers. The students appreciate them: “They are very serious about seeing that students get to class, even though they are volunteers,” says A’daisha Pickett. Johnathan Murff says “99% of the students are in class now.” The volunteers themselves have benefited from their participation. Mark Williams says, “It has enhanced my awareness and allowed me to grow up in a sense. I can share with the students the price I’ve paid to do what I’ve done and how it affects me as an adult.” Denise Jensen adds, “I’m showing that I care about them; that they are not just kids. They are our future. My biggest statement to them is they don’t want to be 51 years old and living at a mission.”
These volunteers are making a real difference for the next generation. Because they have known and used every trick in the book and really care about the students at Finney High, they can be more effective than well-intentioned but inexperienced volunteers.
These are men and women who have learned from their history and learned to take responsibility for their history. To do their part, leaders in the community ─ like Principal Ward ─ must believe that people can change. Then they must offer those who have worked hard to prove themselves meaningful opportunities to give back to their community, standing by, supporting and encouraging them. When this happens, miracles can happen. Just like the miracles at Finney High School.