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Marygrove College’s Art Department understands how small steps can sometimes lead to larger ones. Together with the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), they are helping people who have experienced great loss make that first stride to positive change and recovery-- by learning something new.

Twelve students have successfully completed their first course of digital media and video production, through a grant that helps the underserved in the city of Detroit. With the encouragement of Art Department Chair Jim Lutomski and Dean of Fine Arts Rose DeSloover, a syllabus was created by Tim Gralewski, Assistant Professor of Art.  Gralewski prepared a 14-week hands-on computer and video skills program, with projects that allow for self-expression and reflection.

“The Marygrove Department of Social Work paved the way for us to offer this class to people who want to learn new skills,” said Gralewski. “We were very excited to take on the challenge of creating classes that are challenging for students who have been out of the workforce for some time.”

“Most of these students have high school diplomas, but have not been in a classroom environment for many years,” Gralewski says. “This is a big first step to returning to a formal education. It helps them realize they have the power to learn new computer skills and thrive in an academic setting, things most people take for granted.” Rescue Mission case workers support the students and remain in close contact with the instructor throughout the course. They want their students to succeed.

Their commitment is not a small one. Students met two days a week for three hours each day. “You could feel the pride,” Gralewski said, “You could sense their appreciation… this class helps give them the confidence to pick up their game and carry on.”

Students learned how to use a Mac computer, and get comfortable with a camera. The first assignment was to make an advertisement. They split into groups of four or five, and seemed to really enjoy the camaraderie. “We found one woman who really has a gift for photography, so we’ll be looking into getting her some photography courses. It is so rewarding to help people help themselves,” Gralewski adds.

Another popular assignment gave students the chance to create a documentary. Some chose to reflect on their lives and the hardships they’ve experienced. Others focused on people they admired or hobbies that interested them. At the end of the course, the class had a “film festival,” with snippets of everyone’s work.

Gralewski is passing the baton this semester to Chris Weagle, Adjunct Professor of Art, Marygrove, who teaches the next seven-week course focusing on video editing using Final Cut Pro software. “I’ll be teaching again in the spring and summer,” Gralewski says. “I can’t wait to hear about their progress.” When asked what the main take-away from this venture is: “I guess the biggest message we send, along with the DRMM is don’t give up on people…there’s always something to be learned—something that can entice a person back to having hope for the future.”