Blight Fighter: Robert from Detroit

buildOn Senior Service Superlatives: Blight Fighter
Robert Moss, Osborn College Preparatory Academy, Detroit

buildOn Senior Service Superlatives showcase some of the standout seniors from the buildOn Class of 2015. With 92% of buildOn students graduating and going on to college with more than 150,000 hours of service contributed, we have a lot to celebrate this year!


robert mossWith 25 square miles of abandoned property, Detroit could use more young people like Robert Moss. The graduating senior from Osborn College Preparatory Academy on is brimming with Detroit pride and is one of buildOn’s best blight fighters.

“People in this community should love where they’re from and take care of it,” Robert says. “When someone asks you where you’re from, you should say ‘Detroit!’ proudly. You shouldn’t say it like you’re ashamed of where you live.”

Robert has been a leader of buildOn Detroit’s work to board up, paint and beautify abandoned buildings and houses. Some of the buildings that buildOn students have worked on have sold recently, helping to lift the prospects of the entire neighborhood. Robert knows this service is essential not only to beautifying the city and redeveloping the Osborn neighborhood, but also to curbing the violence and poverty plaguing the city. In fact, Detroit’s unsecured abandoned houses have frequently been the scene of sexual assaults on young women and girls.

“I feel like all the gang violence and crime is because we don’t take care of our city,” Robert says. “The crooks and the thugs see that people don’t take care of where they live, so they make it even worse. I think if the community starts to take care of it, and (gang members) see people taking care of it, they will have to either stop what they’re doing or go somewhere else.”

This idea is what’s driving one of the newest blight fighting service projects Robert is spearheading. The buildOn students from Osborn noticed that the only people using the park near their school are older guys who just hang out and keep kids and families away. The park has been neglected and lacks play space, so the student’s plan to restore the park’s baseball diamond and playground equipment so families feel welcome to use the park again.

Robert and his classmates are also working on a service project to create bus shelters near the school to give some relief to the students and community members who wait for Detroit’s often unreliable buses during the city’s notoriously bad winter weather.


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Robert is proud of the impact that buildOn students are making through their blight fighting service, but he also knows they need to work with others in the community to maximize their impact. That’s why they’re meeting with city officials to collaborate on their service projects and working to bring community members into the fold.

“The blight itself is a huge problem of course, but that comes from people in the community who don’t want to take care of where they live. We have to change that,” Robert says.

Although Robert’s high school service with buildOn will be ending soon, he hopes to leave a legacy. Not only is he recruiting his twin brothers to join buildOn at Osborn next year, he’s also mentoring younger kids at the community’s elementary school. This mentorship is another buildOn service project and one of Robert’s favorites.

“Before buildOn, I wasn’t sure I liked children. That really changed me, sitting down with the kids at the elementary school. It was really cool getting to know them,” Robert says.

Even though the mentoring has officially ended, Robert keeps in touch with his nine-year-old mentee, Gregory. He keeps Gregory and the other elementary school kids in mind when battling blight and wants them to be motivated to better Detroit, too.

“One of the kids was talking about how they feel uncomfortable with the abandoned buildings, the grass is never cut, and everything like that,” Robert says. “I told him when he gets older to join buildOn or find other opportunities, don’t just sit and talk about it. Actually do something about it.”

Robert plans to start a different kind of service in the Marine Corps in the fall, and he sees some similarities between buildOn service and military service.

“It’s all about giving back and being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself,” he says.

Pictured: A few of the Detroit buildings that Robert and his buildOn classmates from Osborn College Prep have painted and boarded up to improve the safety and quality of life in their neighborhood.





This graduation season, show your #GRADitude for buildOn by investing in future graduates like Robert.

DONATE NOW_____________________________