Seven days ago, Detroit's Communication and Media Arts High School (CMA) was a struggling educational institution, symbolized by its aging exterior and deteriorating interior.
Friday morning, its students, alumni and neighbors got to see it transformed. Thanks to a NBC television series called, “School Pride,” CMA got a full renovation. For seven days, people poured money, time and – dare I be this melodramatic? – love into its bricks.
When the curtain fell, the school had a fresh, shiny look – instead of faded blue, it was a golden yellow and purple with sleek new signs. And from what I heard from the vendors, volunteers and media folks, the interior is just as stunning with all new technology and furnishings.
Perhaps the best part of watching the dramatic reveal (other than the buzzing helicopters ahead) was hearing DPS Emergency Manager Robert Bobb promise that he will never close CMA. The students cheered with a kind of manic energy that any television producer would dream of – and they meant it.
Some background: Housed in a building built in 1959, CMA was a candidate for closure in June due to its poor condition and the anticipated expense of repairs. Emergency Financial Manager Bobb learned the producers were looking for schools for the show and nominated CMA for a makeover. He removed it from the closure list after learning it was a finalist. So the drama was a bit staged but pretty awesome anyway.
“No matter how bad things get, they can get better,” cheered host Tom Stroup. “We showed up at just the right time. … You now have a brand-new school.” Cue the screaming. But it was legit; who wouldn't be geeked by such a sight?
It was cool to be on site when the whole reveal went down. Anyone else watch “Extreme Home Makeover” on ABC? Not to mention the competition so to speak, but I loved seeing the family's face when they realized how much their world would change thanks to the miracle makeover.
This show is even better, I think. It's about making a better educational experience for children. Yeah, it's all about the kids. And it's all about Detroit kids. Who deserve better. They deserve safe, well-built schools. They deserve a great school with top-notch technology. And now they have it.
The boom cameras, the beautiful hosts/television personalities, the hyped-up crowd – it was such a production. The vendors were buzzing just as much, eager to show off the products and services they donated. There was Logical Choice Technologies out of Georgia that brought massive tech support and products. Southfield-based Statewide Disaster Restoration, the onsite general contractor, donated more than $100,000 in hours and products. (Oh, and Just Baked – the cupcake gods – made sure the students got a sweet surprise when they went into their new lounge.)
Some 2,600 people agreed to volunteer during the seven-day renovation. One included a University of Michigan-Dearborn student who heard about over Facebook. There were community leaders like Daniel Mulligan, director of Project Seed, a top-notch mathematics programs. I could go on and on.
A small crowd gathered around the site, including Alicia Buggs, a CMA 1998 alumni. “I think it's wonderful,” she said, impressed with the new building.
I'll be truly impressed come October when the show finally airs. Sadly, all the production Friday did not allow the public or the press to see much of what the interior looks like. But the students know, and that's pretty much all that matters.