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Peace, creativity, and motherhood: The best of Michigan Nightlight 2016

Students in the program roleplay as police officers

Before we launch into another year of stories about the issues, people, and programs that impact Detroit kids, we wanted to revisit the best-read 2016 Michigan Nightlight stories from Model D. (In case you’re not familiar, Michigan Nightlight is our series of solutions-focused stories about improving outcomes for vulnerable children.)  

Our piece on young creatives strengthening their neighborhoods through art takes a look at how designing t-shirts and beautifying alleyways in southwest Detroit has helped youth deal with conflict, stay on track in school, and better connect to peers and adults who care about neighborhood vitality. A program highlighted in the story, The Alley Project, has given young graffiti artists, once characterized as delinquents, an outlet to paint and a platform to be celebrated as artists.

Another widely-read article, Keeping the Peace, covered a program of Wayne State University's Center for Peace and Conflict. At the weeklong Ralph Bunche Summer Institute, students from high schools across metro Detroit learn about diversity, social justice, race relations and civil rights. In the story, we heard from 16-year old Dale French, who hopes to be an advocate for conflict resolution in his Macomb County community. Another youth, Scott Hallett from Hamtramck, said: "I always thought that they would just shoot our ideas down because we're not adults yet. I now know that people will listen to us if what we're saying is valid."

Our three-part series on motherhood and entrepreneurship showcasing five Detroit-area women also attracted many interested readers. The first story looked at how entrepreneurship can contribute to family stability and impact the local ecosystem. "While entrepreneurship has around-the-clock demands, many women still consider it a preferred pathway to achieving both financial and family stability, rather than being someone else's employee," writes Melinda Clynes.

The installment looked at how mother entrepreneurs managed gender and race stereotypes, and the third and final piece illustrated how entrepreneurship allows women the flexibility to be attentive to their children's needs—from meeting kids at the bus stop to tucking them in at night to being amazing role models.

Two one-minute videos visually and musically recap the mother entrepreneur stories. You'll find them here and here.

Finally, the early fall feature on Carol Miller, a proponent for clean and accessible water, was also a popular read. For Miller, a water-quality engineering professor at Wayne State University, the 2016 Detroit water shutoffs troubled her in profound ways. "Shutoffs don't save money," she said in the article. "You're not saving significant quantities of money by shutting off water to all these people, you're making a statement."

We covered this story with an understanding that children are often first affected when water is shut off or contaminated.

If you haven't had a chance to read these pieces, please do. We look forward to bringing you more Michigan Nightlight stories in 2017.

Michigan Nightlight is a series of stories about the programs and people that positively impact the lives of Michigan kids. It is made possible with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Read more in the series here.

Read more articles by Melinda Clynes.

Melinda Clynes is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Model D. She is the statewide project editor of Michigan Kids, a series of stories that highlight what’s working to improve outcomes for Michigan children. View her online portfolio here.
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