Southfield Campus English faculty Nicole Pitts was honored with a District One Community Leadership Award for her work on the Cooley Reuse Project. She was recognized in June by the Mayor of Detroit for bringing economic and community development opportunity to the former school in northwest Detroit.
Pitts and her husband, LaMar Williams, founded the Cooley Reuse Project, a nonprofit economic development corporation dedicated to transforming Cooley High School. The project will transform the national landmark into a mixed-use development.
“We want Cooley to be a place outside of home and work where community residents feel comfortable,” said Pitts. ”It’s a beautiful building with such rich history—it would be a shame to see it go to waste. We believe, why not enhance what is already there and turn it into a space for the community.”
An estimated $54 million will be invested for mixed-income housing and a community center providing services ranging from art and music programs to job readiness training and childcare. The first area of the building the group wants to open is a 24-hour library so residents have access to tutoring, computers and other resources they need.
Pitts said there are many opportunities for OCC students and faculty to get involved and contribute to the program.
On August 1, OCC faculty joined Pitts along with students and community members for ARISE: Detroit Neighborhoods Day at the Cooley Reuse Project. OCC volunteers worked throughout the day cleaning up, collecting garbage and planting more than 6,000 flowers around the former high school as part of the neighborhood beautification project.
Pitts said that after hearing the Cooley Reuse Project story, people get very interested in learning more and volunteering additional time. For example, one former OCC colleague implemented a community service requirement in her Delta College class as another great way to get others involved.
Upon receiving the award, Pitts said, “I am grateful to be acknowledged for the work the Cooley Reuse Project team is doing in this community which is minutes from my home.”
For more information on how you can contribute to the Cooley Reuse Project, visit cooleyhsdetroit.jimdo.com/.