Local students work to spruce up Senior Citizen Center

Effort backed by community service grant from MYLead

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published August 27, 2013

MADISON HEIGHTS — Several students who participated in Michigan Youth Leadership, or MYLead, are using a $500 grant from the nonprofit to make a difference in their community, focusing on the Senior Citizen Center on John R north of 12 Mile.

The three MYLead students are Ismail Aijazuddin and Brooke Heisler, both seniors at Lamphere High, and Sara Gomez-Perez, a senior at Bishop Foley. They are mobilizing a group of 10 to 15 students from all three high schools in the city, aiming to spruce up the grounds at the senior center sometime before the end of August.

Aijazuddin, Heisler and Gomez-Perez first participated in MYLead as sophomores. Each high school across the state sponsors two student ambassadors; local groups like the Madison Heights Intermediate Women’s Club sponsor additional students.

The sophomore students travel to Michigan State University for a weekend conference, where they learn about leadership skills. In the case of Aijazuddin, Heisler and Gomez-Perez, they returned as conference alumni their junior year, helping to run the different groups. Now seniors, they’re carrying the MYLead banner once more.

“We want to spruce up the senior center so it’s a nicer place for the seniors to congregate, of course, but more than that, we want to establish a permanent relationship between the students and seniors in town, so we can work on more projects with them in the future,” Aijazuddin said.

Their work at the senior center will include yard-work, removing overgrowth and weeding in the gardens; cleaning up along the fence-lines and tidying up the parking lot; repainting the yellow caution lines on the curbs, so people don’t trip and fall; refinishing the picnic tables under the pavilion; and hanging birdhouses made by the seniors.

“We thought this would be a great way to engage students from across the three districts and get them involved with the seniors,” Aijazuddin said. “We’re not limiting it to people who have participated in projects before. We want to open the door and make connections with new people.”

He said they were assisted by a number of adults, including Rick Lewis from the Madison Heights Community Family Coalition, Verna Warren from Madison Heights Youth Assistance, and Linda Williams from the Economic Development Department.

“We’re trying to pull this off in just two weeks (as of mid-August), so there’s been a lot going on over on their end to help us do this,” Aijazuddin said.

Lewis said the students are the ones who deserve the praise.

“They’re great leaders,” Lewis said. “(At MYLead), the kids are immersed in what I call ‘extreme positive peer pressure.’ The benefit is they get to see their own potential. They come back, energized and ready to make an impact in their community. They (Aijazuddin, Heisler and Gomez-Perez) prove the program really works.”