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Project Community

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Working with Project Community can mean walk ing through the steel doors of Washtenaw County Jail to tutor prisoners, or it can mean students from the U-M teaching n a local grade school, or high school students who wou ld otherwise be held back by the oppressive atmosphere at a regular high school being able to attend Solstis Free School Overall it means using the people and money resources of the University of Michigan, the richest nstitution in the area, for the benefit of the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti communities. In the past eleven years Project Community has developed to become the largest student U-M organization to respond to community needs. Partially funded by the U-M (and getting only a pittance compared to research projects), it "provides an important means for students and the community to understand and work with each other." Growing out of the old Tutorial Project, a small program offering tutoring on a one to one basis, it has become an umbrella for a number of community projects to "work within the institutions to stimulate change and to assist students in the larning process with a view toward humanizing and democratizing education." Project Community gives U-M students an opportunity to get out of the all too often uniformity of dorm or apartment life, and into the outside world to relate to people of different ages and economie classes and get credit at the same time. Working with people in schools or other nstitutions gives them the opportunity to actually try out all the concepts they have learned from textbooks. Teaching becomes a real experience. All the people Project Community volunteers come into contact with also benefit immensely. Everyone can always progress more quickly when there are more people around to relate to and all the institutions definitely benefit as new deas and ways of implementing them are brought into the institution by people from the Project. Last year Project Community had 540 student volun teers, 60-70 pare nts, U-M staff members and community representatives. "We can't opérate n a vacuüm", said Thomas Morehead, rector of the Project, who along with the rest of the staff is constantly seeking community input into deciding the direction of the Project. Each proposed program is reviewed to determine who in the community it would serve, how effective it would be in changing the lives of those people, how much it would cost, and if it would be a duplication of services offered elsewhere. The following of Project Community programs may seem diverse, but each of them meets a specif ic need of the community. It seems that one of them must in some way touch every person living in Ann Arbor. The Innovative Tutorial Experience is a U-M credit course which grew out of the original tutoring program "to attempt to bridge the gap between learning about . the world vicariously and experiencing it first hand." Students work n classrooms with small groups or with one child. Counseling at Willow Run High School to augment the efforts of regular counselors to work te give students a direction. An Income Tax Program so people who have tax problems and who can't afford professional help wilt be able to figure out all the loopholes so they don't get more screwed than they have to by the government. The Child Care Program puts people into Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Day Care Centers to help out, supplies books, paint and other supplies and sees tself as a proponent of community supported and controlled day care center while serving as a news distribution center for child care policies and legislation here in the Michigan área and across the nation. Maxey Boys Training School Program sends people prepared with the necessary legal knowledge out to Maxey to teach and hang out with the people being kept there. It seems that a lot of white students go, so black people should volunteer because a lot fo people out there are black. This year the Halfway House Project will enable people to work at NPIAdolescent Unit, Ypsilanti State Hospital, and the Halfway House. Volunteers go for weekly visits (consistency in these is necessary) to give people kept in these places a chance to relate to non-institutional personnel. Washtenaw County Jail Project is a great chance to go down to Harvey's Hotel and actually see who's there, why they're in the joint and what they do while they're in. People go inside in a teacher role but you can turn the prisoners on to all sorts of things that otherwise would have gone right by them, and let them know they're not isolated from the rest of us. Solstis Free School, an alternative for both parents and students to local Junior and Senior High Schools, gives people an opportunity to determine for themselves what they'll learn and breaks down the f al se separations between school and the rest of their lives. Project Community Course is a one semester ntroduction to community service activities in the Ann Arbor area for all those people who work with the projects so they can benefit from speakers from the community and collectively share their experiences. All for college credit too. U-M students can teach at Washtenaw Community College or work creating new teaching methods along with the Center for Research and Learning and Teaching or volunteer to run an extra-curricular "free university." The program is intended to be flexible according to the interests of the people in t. Matrix will function when it gets together as a central information place of people work ing for alternatives and educational change. In order to keep these programs function ing Project Community needs money for administrative costs, salaries for staff, portation (Project cars del ver volunteers to their destinations), and materials. The U-M doesn't put itself out too much as it only supplies a third of Project Community's budget which reaches 90,000 per year. The other two-thirds must come from donations. So when you're out on the street and you see someone with a bucket and a Project Community sign taped to it, you know what they need the money for, so dig down and drop in some change or even a bilí if you have it.