Safe spaces. Professional growth. Expansion and transformation. Our Refuel Roadtrips are designed to provide all of the above in less than a day.
“When you get to go out with people and have a good time and still learn something new in the process - you can’t beat that.”
“It made me dream a little more. I got comfortable at work and wasn’t looking sideways to see what else is going on in Grand Rapids.”
That’s Stephanie Pierce, Director of Community Outreach at GRAAHI, and Angel Barreto Cruz, Lead Membership Specialist at the YMCA and Co-Founder of Loop Coding Center, talking about last year’s Refuel Roadtrip.
Roadtrips take leaders of color to sister cities located within a few hours of Grand Rapids. There, we enjoy interrupted time in community and experience first hand innovation and change efforts led by leaders of color. They are experiential learning experiences that can double as self care.
We talked with one emerging and one established leader to learn what they experienced during last year’s trip to Detroit. Angel and Stephanie are both graduates of the Transformational Leaders Program (TLP) and had slightly different motivations for attending.
Last year’s trip got Angel’s attention because though he had been to Detroit before, he hadn’t gotten a real close up look of the city. “When you go on your own with friends you go downtown. On the trip we got to experience the whole city. We were on a bus that drove us to many places and see actual Detroit.”
Stephanie came as a mentor. She wanted to stay engaged with TLP and “meet new leaders coming in, share stories with them and give them encouragement.” Still, you’ll see she took a ton from the trip, too.
“It’s insane how the scenery makes a difference in how you connect with people.” Angel was surprised at the new relationships he started on the trip. Like many of us, he’s often one of “the only” at work so spending time in community was special.
Stephanie recognizes that “you don’t really know someone until you have a conversation with them.” There are opportunities throughout the trip - on the bus and at the different pit stops - to go deeper with folks you see around or start brand new friendships.
Once home, these relationships continue. Stephanie invited her new connects to GRAAHI’s Rhythm Run. “They showed up and had a table!” Now part of her expanded social network, they “bounce ideas off each other” and are another familiar face and call away.
Angel experienced a new form of self care on the trip. He liked walking along the Riverfront between Detroit and Canada. “I’ve never taken the time to look at the water even [in Grand Rapids]. Just being there [on the river] was calming. I’m trying to do that more now - go places, walk, observe and take in how beautiful this place is.”
Designed for leaders of color, Roadtrips are safe spaces to breathe, unpack everyday stressors and deepen relationships with others who share similar experiences.
We can’t take lightly the racial healing that can happen when these relationships grow between Black and Brown people.
Refuel Roadtrip “pit stops” are intentionally designed and curated to facilitate new learning. And one of the best parts of the trip.
For Stephanie, the trip to the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation was her favorite. Housed in a renovated warehouse, it acts as a hub for the community by providing a variety of services for families, youth and adults returning from prison as well as outreach and advocacy services. Their outreach and activities for the community, diverse funding sources and how they’re using space stuck with her. “I could see us expanding what we have here based on what we saw there.”
The inclusiveness and welcoming atmosphere for people of color stuck out to Angel.
He saw people of color operating businesses, leading grassroots movements and leading as their authentic selves.
It’s not all glorious, of course. Angel noticed that some of their neighborhoods experience obvious inequities. For example, there’s a coal plant close to a Black neighborhood, posing serious health risks for its residents. “There’s so much money in the city - look at those buildings like the Renaissance Center - but look at [the coal plant] that’s still there. That’s crazy to me.”
As Grand Rapids grows, gentrifies and grapples with pressing issues facing communities of color, seeing how other communities tackle these complex issues is important. From Black and Brown owned business to neighbors being part of revitalization efforts, witnessing the innovative work of individuals and organizations gives inspiration and insight into things we could have in our community.
Because there’s so much to learn, Angel feels participating in the trip “drove [him] a little more as far as talking to different people in different communities on their work and their challenges.” He wants to make sure we’re sharing the good of Grand Rapids, too.
We can learn a lot from each other. Refuel Roadtrips facilitate this learning and technical knowledge while building relationships with leaders across the state and in our own community.
In the end, seeing all this work up close in Detroit up helped affirm Angel’s belief that “you create equity through entrepreneurship and innovation.” He’s working on that vision through Loop Coding Center - and the trip helped him make new business connections. He first saw April Anderson pitcher her business Good Cakes and Bakes on stage at a business pitch competition. Because her business was a Roadtrip pit stop, they now have have a personal connection.
Stephanie is thinking about how to expand her impact at GRAAHI. She said the trip helped her think through new ways that they could bring people into their services, expand their outreach and sustain donations.
Refuel Roadtrips give you new ideas and bring you back home inspired, seeing new possibilities and ready to work! In less than a day.
As for Angel and Stephanie, are they going on this year’s trip?
“Hell yeah,” says Angel. “I’ve never been to Flint and want to check it out. I can’t wait to see what else I’m going to learn.”
Stephanie agrees. “It’s a great experience and I encourage others to join even if you’re not part of TLP.”
If you’re ready to relax, refuel and recharge, join us for our 2nd annual Refuel Roadtrip to Flint. In just 15 hours you’ll learn, fill your cup and come back inspired and ready to work. Come to ‘just be’, unpack stressors and struggles of workplace life, enjoy uninterrupted time in community and glean professional development.
This year’s Refuel Roadtrip is from 7am - 10pm on Friday, July 12th. We’re visiting community hubs cultivated by Black and Brown leaders of Flint. Even more, we've incorporated your feedback from last year. We’ll have more built in time to connect and reflect together. Seats are limited. Save your spot and claim your 15 hour refuel.
These past months brought a lot of excitement as people debated and voted in (or out) a new class of elected representatives. We saw large voter turnout across the nation and many first time voters: 18-year olds, new U.S. citizens and those who felt compelled to be more involved given our current political climate. But even if you didn’t vote, you’re an important part of what happens next.