Students learn while fighting blight through Detroit Land Bank program

Detroiters are getting a hand with home repairs while students get some hands-on experience as a local trade school teams up with the Detroit Land Bank to fight blight and teach new skills. 

Dariahen Thorton says he got out of prison about a year ago and it was hard to find employment. So he got to thinking.

"Since a kid I've been good with my hands," he said.

So when he heard about a partnership between Detroit Land Bank Authority and a trades school called Emerging Industries Training Institute, he says he knew it was an opportunity to not allow his past to define his future.

"Students are getting a 16-week pre-apprentice carpentry training basically a career pathway exposure in the trades. This is a very great partnership with the Land Bank," said William Aaron of Emerging Industries Training Institute.

On Thursday, Dariahen joined other members of his training class to build a garage at a Land Bank property on San Juan in Detroit. At Detroit Land Bank, the mission is to return the city's vacant and blighted properties into productive spaces, but they realized something was missing.

"Managing the Rehab and Ready program, we noticed it was hard to find qualified Detroiters as general contractors," said Veronica Johnson with the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

So this partnership between the school and Land Bank is giving new life to once blighted properties and helping to rebuild communities.

"We can list the priority for more than we were going to list it originally, which will benefit everybody," Johnson said.

And it also helps rebuild the future of Detroiters like Dariahen. After training is complete, students are setup with employment opportunities.

"We work with several employers in the area so that when students are finished and complete on these projects, they are ready to work," Aaron said.

This program also helps the City of Detroit meet its requirement to have students work on construction projects.

"With the city and 51 percent ordinance passed by city council, we have to make sure that 51 percent of residents are working on these construction projects -- and right here is the training ground, the proving ground," Aaron said.

As the training and building on the land bank properties continue, so is the building of a bright future.

"This was a big inspiration that really made me want to come even more and learn, and look forward to actually making something of myself because I never thought I would," Thorton said.