Northwestern High School student AuShenay Ward was one of eight students who participated in a discussion about Detroit politics and the upcoming election. (BridgeDetroit/Detroit is Different photo)

There has been little to no debate or engagement leading up to Detroit’s Nov. 2 general election, and that’s a problem for many Detroiters, including high schoolers.  


This month, BridgeDetroit and Detroit is Different asked a group of Detroit students to discuss the city’s upcoming election. Detroiters will elect members to City Council, a mayor, city clerk, police commissioners, and determine three ballot proposals. Most of the high schoolers are not old enough to vote yet, but were still clear about their priorities for Detroit and one of their many concerns is the lack of political engagement. Students Recardo Lott, AuShenay Ward, Ariauna McClellon, Courtney Buford, Victoria Matthews, Kenyetta Smith and Emmitt Simpson participated in the afternoon discussion from Northwestern High School.

“I want to see East Jefferson, Woodward and the West Grand Boulevard flooded with people interacting … but that doesn’t ever happen,” said Simpson, who thinks there should be political parades or large events where Detroiters can meet their candidates.

Northwestern High School student Victoria Matthews. (BridgeDetroit/Detroit is Different photo)

“I want to meet them, just tell them how I feel about Detroit … and how I feel about how they should run it more and show us more,” said McClellon. “That’s why these kids (are) out here in the streets now, because they think they can just do anything. … We just need more support.”

From potholes to race and gentrification and reckless driving, the Detroit students voiced their top concerns in the city. The students expressed their desire to own houses in Detroit but fear the lack of affordability. They were concerned about people living on the streets and the need to improve community-focused policing. 

Youth said they felt both under- and over-policed in Detroit. They don’t always feel safe, and describe scenarios in which they believe certain citizens were unfairly targeted. 

“The police, they pick and choose who they want to pull over,” said McClellon, who also described feeling “uncomfortable” in the city.

Detroit students also want people who are running for office and elected officials to make better use of social media and technology to reach more constituents.

Simpson asked elected officials and those running for office to “show” their quality of neighborhood community engagement. 

“(I want to actually see) what’s wrong with the west side of Detroit and the east side, south side, north side,” he said.

What Should Happen in Detroit

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What are your Concerns in Detroit

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How are you learning about local politics?

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How can your city help you?

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What local political office do you pay attention to?

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