Legacy Leader: Brittney from Detroit

buildOn Senior Service Superlatives: Legacy Leader
Brittney Dobbins, 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!


For Brittney Dobbins, service is a family affair. The Osborn College Preparatory Academy senior started coming to buildOn community service projects in middle school with her older sister Shardai. Her sisters Lanae, who is 10th grade, and Kayla, who is in 9th grade, both serve with buildOn. Even her younger sister, Raven, who is still a year away from high school, is already coming to buildOn service projects.

“It’s a tradition for all of us. (My family) says all they hear is buildOn, buildOn, buildOn,” Brittney says. “They didn’t have a lot of opportunities growing up. They see how buildOn is helping us, how good we’ve become with the community. That makes them feel good and proud.”

Through the last four years with buildOn, Brittney has given more than 500 hours of service to her struggling east side neighborhood. She’s helped her neighbors in the Osborn community through a variety of service projects, but volunteering at the Matrix community center is what Brittney enjoys most. She serves food to the hungry, distributes clothing to people in need, and has extended her strong sense of family to include the clients and other volunteers she’s met there.

“The Matrix Center makes me feel so comfortable,” Brittney says. “It’s like we are all just one family. I’ve gotten used to being there and getting to know everybody.”

For Brittney, creating and nurturing these strong family ties is essential to surviving in her violence-plagued neighborhood, especially when walking to and from school.

“I feel safer when I’m with someone. When I’m by myself I don’t feel safe, so we walk together as a family,” Brittney says. “There’s a lot of chaos, killing, murder. It’s everywhere. It’s all over the city, but it’s a lot here on the east side.”

Brittney knows that Detroit’s violence, blight and battered economy are huge issues facing the community, but she sees apathy and people leaving the city as just as big of problems.

“People are leaving Detroit because of the environment, how it looks, the violence. It’s just too much for people,” Brittney says. “If we have people leaving Detroit, how do we get the help we need?”

Brittney hopes that by passing the legacy of service through her own family, she’s making a lasting and positive impact on Detroit. She also wants this legacy to extend to other young people in the community.

“You have younger kids that are going to have to grow up in the neighborhoods. And if they’re growing up in a bad environment, they feel like nobody cares and everybody is coming apart,” Brittney says. “(Serving the community) shows them that all people can help and shows that there’s still people here that are doing good.”

After graduation, Brittney plans to follow in the footsteps of her older sister Shardai, who is the first in their family to attend college. Brittney will be attending Marygrove College in the fall and wants to go on to medical school from there. She plans to continue to serve people in need as a pediatrician and knows exactly where she wants to practice.

“I love Detroit. I feel like I can make it a better place,” Brittney says. “There’s no point for me to leave. The more people that leave who could be helping, the worse it’s going to be.”

Pictured: (Above) Brittney (right) is graduating this year, but she’s leaving a legacy of service. She’s gotten her sister Kayla (left) and two other younger sisters involved in buildOn. (Below left) Brittney helps serve food at a Detroit soup kitchen. (Below right) Kayla helps distribute clothing to homeless community members.

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