College Access as Civil Rights
in Southwest Detroit

Congress of Communities Youth Council College Access as Civil Rights in Southwest Detroit

Access to college is a civil rights issue which some young people are trying to address.


In Southwest Detroit, Congress of Communities (CoC) youth council members knew that many of their peers were not aspiring to college because they feared not getting accepted or being unable to afford tuition. Higher education is a gateway to society and while there are no laws against their attending, too many minority students of color (with fears associated with first-generation, low-income, and undocumented status to contend with) are frustrated by the process.


They wanted everyone to understand that higher education is a right for everyone, not just a few.


Youth council members and their adult allies organized Creating Our Diverse Education (CODE), a conference for high school students to teach them about opportunities in higher education, including how to apply to colleges and find funds to make it happen. They invited current college students from Southwest Detroit to discuss their experiences and college officials to provide information about documentation, application, and financial aid information regarding FAFSA and DACA documentation.


Youth council members were involved in every stage of the conference, including writing a mini-grant for funding. They recruited and registered the participants and facilitated panel discussions and financial aid presentations. In so doing, they developed their program planning and public speaking skills.


The youth-led conference was the first of its kind and attracted a large number of low-income minorities of color, most of whom would become the first in their families to attend college. The participants learned a great deal and were inspired by the opportunities to meet with others who shared their experiences.


Meanwhile, CoC youth Council members and adult allies pledged to support them in their efforts – many of them successful – to exercise their rights to higher education, and open the gates to the larger society.