Otto Middle School is reinvented as a community center for everyone


Local opinions from across Greater Lansing are submitted as letters to the editor, collected in a monthly package or in occasional special sections.

This special section on how local community activists hope to transform Otto Middle School has been compiled with the help of a community activist. The Shawn Erby.

Check out our guidelines and faqs for more information; to submit your 175 word opinion on a local issue, send an email [email protected].

For over a year, colleagues and neighbors in the community held many meetings about Otto Middle School to discuss its acquisition from the Lansing School District. As a result, the former Otto estate will be transformed into a safe and healing multicultural mecca where everyone has a fair chance to flourish.

People in the neighborhood will have access to basic services such as health care, mental health care, an auditorium for events and the performing arts, as well as a pool for therapy and recreation.

We, Advancement Corporation, are pleased to present the thoughts of some of our founding collaborating partners. As the conversations continue, the list should grow exponentially.

LaShawn Erby is a community activist who helps coordinate the proposed transformation of the former Otto Middle School on the north side of Lansing. To donate, get involved or find out more, visit

Otto Middle School will bring our Indigenous community together

The Indigenous Youth Empowerment Program, founded in 2008, was housed at Otto Middle School until it was prematurely closed a few years later. Otto was the perfect space to bring together the indigenous community of Greater Lansing due to its location and access to green spaces and gardens. Many indigenous families in the area had a close connection to the school and were saddened to see the halls of the building become silent.

The Indigenous Youth Empowerment Program strongly encourages the Lansing School Board to consider reopening Otto as a community center, especially in the setup that would house some of the region’s most trusted organizations in one space. We are at a critical point where our division is tearing communities apart, having a space that nurtures cross-cultural collaborations would not only heal our communities from past trauma, but it would allow us to build a stronger community together.

J. Estrella Torrez is a Senior Professor in Native American and Chicano / Latino Studies, Co-Director of the Native Youth Empowerment Program, Co-Chair of MSU Womxn of Color Initiatives, and Associate Professor at the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities in Michigan. State University.

One stop shop for the whole community

The Lansing area is long behind in having a full service community center that reflects the diversity that exists here. Children from all walks of life need to see more people in leadership and leadership positions at all levels, and various abilities that are similar to them and can be directly related to where they are from.

The community center will be a one-stop-shop for the whole community where we offer various types of support services. People will receive healthy food, food assistance, clothing, medical health services, physical therapy, mental health services, bereavement counseling, physical training, employment services, placement, recreational activities for children, training in a business school, arts, water sports, sports, and more.

This center is not a desire or a request, but it is a need that must be taken into account if we are to truly see this community moving in a more positive direction.

Derrick “DJ” Knox, Jr., is CEO of Advancement Corporation and Michigan Poor People’s Campaign, president of Quad.

A safe place to build unity

The Lansing BIPOC community needs a space that not only serves as a safe place, but also strengthens the unity between coalitions and organizations that work to empower and educate the youth of our city. If the leaders of Lansing City and Lansing School Board take diversity equity and inclusion seriously, supporting and developing this space would be a good step forward!

Florensio Hernandez is commissioner of the Michigan Latino Hispanic Commission, Senior Admissions Advisor at Michigan State University, and a member of the Ingham County Health Centers Board of Trustees.

A community center to improve the human condition

This center’s community outreach is a critical commitment to greater equity here in Lansing. This center exists beyond being just an act of goodwill, but more explicitly, represents a kind of adhesive that will bind our community together for the purpose of improving the human condition.

Dr Terence D. Gipson is Professor of Health Policy at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York.

A place to honor multicultural experiences, histories and culture

It is essential that black and brown youth receive behavioral and mental health services that honor their experiences from an intersectional perspective. Research has consistently shown that black and brown people perform well when behavioral and mental health services are provided in a way that honors their experiences, histories, and cultures.

To this end, Otto’s collaborative space has the potential to bring together several professionals from diverse backgrounds who are committed to supporting positive behavior and mental health not only for black and brown youth, but all young people as well. of our community.

Kaston Anderson-Carpenter (he / her) is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University.

A place where everyone can be themselves

Having a collaborative space welcoming LGBTQIA + citizens of Lansing will create more opportunities to serve community members at the intersections of their identities. With this connection, we can come closer to serving the whole person and move away from forcing people to choose the identities most salient to them and limiting their possible support systems. Finally, having more visibility for LGBTQIA + supporters and safer spaces gives all people more permission to be themselves.

Oprah Jrenal Revish is Executive Director of the Salus Center.

Reach the community with messages of trust

The Poor People’s Campaign and Advancement Corporation has leaders who are unequivocal messages of confidence and proven leaders who have the confidence of those we most want to reach. Having a space with training, healthy food, medical services and a space to be together would be a big step in helping the community.

Ethan Schmitt is a community leader at Voces de la Comunidad.

A space to continue the work essential to the community

Grassroots organizations are an essential and effective part of our community. During this pandemic, we have provided care packages to some of our most vulnerable populations. We need a space, we deserve a space to continue the work often overlooked but essential to the well-being of our community.

Marisol Garcia is responsible for the organization at Voces de la Comunidad.

Inclusive collaboration with our neighbors

It’s super exciting for us to develop an inclusive collaboration with our neighbors. Together, we project a vision of equity that we can collectively achieve in the new Advancement Corporation community center.

What an honor to be able to provide a resource space run by BIPOC with access to professional skills, health care and mental health care right in the middle of the neighborhood. We pride ourselves on providing a safe space for marginalized groups and all those who support them. Collective liberation is the only one that exists.

LaShawn Erby is the CEO of One in a Billion Consulting, the senior activist and activist and co-director of Advancement Corporation.


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