A Renaissance in Detroit: How Service Helps Students Like Miah Gill Thrive

For Miah Gill, a Renaissance High School 11th grader with a community service resume bursting with over 120 hours of hard work, giving back isn’t just a hobby, but a way of life. From running canned food drives to collecting clothes for the unhoused in Detroit, Miah hasn’t let a single opportunity to help others pass her by.

Starting in 7th grade, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Miah began working to make her community a better place. And they desperately needed it. “We lost pride in ourselves… we lost faith in our justice system… we lost faith in our government,” says Miah. “We’ve lost our pride, which means we’ve lost our status as a community,”  

Inspired by her grandmother’s lessons on kindness and feeling like her community was losing hope and purpose, she began tackling the variety of problems she saw others struggling with all around her.

“I looked at it and said, there’s all these amazing people in the world right now who just need help. And how can I help them?” she says. “Where everybody’s hungry. Everyone wants food. So I began doing canned goods drives at my school, and then from there I was like, what about the people who can’t afford toiletries? So I started doing toiletry drives. Collecting soap, feminine products, deodorant, stuff like that. I started collecting those. Then I was like, wait a minute, they can’t afford clothes if they need help. So then I started collecting clothes.”

With this extensive service background, Miah was a natural fit for buildOn. When she first heard about buildOn in her Freshman year of high school, she knew she wanted to join immediately. 

“There’s all these amazing people in the world right now who just need help. And how can I help them?

Miah Gill

One buildOn service stands out to her: helping a young girl at the Children’s Center in Midtown Detroit find the perfect graduation outfit when she couldn’t afford the brand new dress she wanted. At the Center, Miah and other students helped run a free clothing boutique. “That was the whole thing. I was able to hands-on help someone who needed my help,” Miah explains. 

Taught from a young age to lead with kindness, Miah is a powerful force for good in her community. 

But though she is optimistic, Miah also understands that her community still has a long way to go, and faces one crucial barrier––a lack of unity and drive. Many young people in Detroit  “grew up with the concept that they can’t do it, or the concept that [they] shouldn’t.”

For Miah, the answer lies in engagement and hope. “I teach them about things like self-confidence, kindness. How to work with others.”

Miah’s passion for service doesn’t only extend to her own community. Last summer, she went on a buildOn Trek to Nicaragua, to a small village called El Destino. While there, Miah and other buildOn students helped lay the foundations for a brand new school that is already having a positive impact on the community. 

And Miah’s future goals? Nothing short of becoming the governor of Michigan! “That is my drive. That is my passion. I feel like Michiganders, we have a lot to show for,” she explains. “I see a lot that we can really improve on. A lot that we can hone in on… Michiganders just need to believe in themselves first.” 

With Miah at the forefront, Michigan’s future looks bright. It isn’t hard to be inspired by her passion and vision for the future.

Miah’s love of service extends far beyond the borders of her hometown. Last summer, she helped build a school with buildOn in rural Nicaragua!

It’s fitting that her high school is named Renaissance, because that’s exactly what she’s working towards. Here at buildOn, we’re working to empower the Miah’s of the world, and help students realize that they have the ability to improve the lives of everyone around them. If we can do that, communities like hers in Detroit will experience the rebirth they need.

Will you support buildOn’s work to empower students like Miah? Consider making a tax-deductible donation today.