The best way to experience Detroit is to see it through the eyes of its youth.
That is the central focus of Our Town, a youth led tour program powered by Atlantic Impact.
Founded in 2016, the organization provides young Detroiters with an opportunity to share their city with the world. Participants master the art of tour guiding while visiting a variety of historical and cultural sites around Detroit, before designing and leading their own tours. This unique experience helps to build a stronger connection between the young men and the city they call home.
Through a partnership with the Detroit Experience Factory, participants lead tours in various parts of the city focusing on themes like art, entrepreneurship, and history. The youth even have the opportunity to customize tours based on their own interests and perspectives.
“Our Town was able to improve my outlook on the city because I was able to experience it. I was actually able to see the city’s history and the impact that it has on the world,” said Kenneth, a member of the organization and junior at Denby High School.
In addition to tour guiding and leadership experience, the participants get to see a variety of areas in the city, from downtown and the riverfront to the neighborhoods and beyond. For many of the young men, these experiences are especially impactful because they present an opportunity to engage with the city beyond their own neighborhood.
Building on their local experiences, several of the young men in this year’s program traveled to Barbados to take their learning to a global scale. By immersing themselves in the historical, cultural and entrepreneurial elements surrounding them during their travels, the young men were able to make connections with their experiences back home.
These unique travel experiences in Detroit and around the world have built an important bond between many of the young men.
“After going on some of the trips and events with the organization, it really started to feel like we became a family and that’s when I fell in love with Atlantic Impact.” Said Lerrell, a senior member of the group.
Even after going off to college, he hopes to stay involved with the organization by helping to grow its reach and create more opportunities for future generations of Our Town participants.
As part of the MBK Innovation Challenge, the organization has expanded to include young men from two Detroit high schools with several of its graduating members going off to study at institutions like Western Michigan University and Ferris State University.
With so much growth and excitement building in Detroit, Our Town is committed to keeping young men of color connected to their city, educated about its history, and engaged with the many opportunities it has to offer.