Alexander Derdelakos

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Raised in the Detroit suburb of Livonia I was taught at an early age to fear and distrust the City. I don't remember traveling to the city very often - even though my father has always worked on Detroit's west side. The exception was the occasional Red Wings game or the annual visit to the Auto Show. As I grew into young adulthood, a few adventurous friends and I would venture into Detroit to visit with acquaintances but the persistent memory of my upbringing would never allow me to be comfortable.

After high school and a few semesters at a local community college, I moved to Brooklyn. At the tender age of 22 I was thrust into an energetic, thriving metropolitan city for the first time in my life and I loved it. After several weeks of persistence and many disappointments I got a job for a small interior design firm in Manhattan's Midtown district. I took to the ebb and flow of the city, quickly adapting to my new environment. Living in New York was a wake up call for me - not only did I learn my own need for independence but I gained an understanding of how different people engage in their community. The social, political and economic impacts of the average citizen were on display and the characteristics that would shape my understanding of the world began to develop.

A year and a half passed and an opportunity to live in Europe was presented to me. At the time I was considering a return to school but which subject I would study was not yet clear to me. I took the opportunity and moved to Florence, Italy to study art and architecture. Born to immigrant parents, I was raised with the understanding that I was not an American in culture and the idea of such was insulting. Moving to the country of my mother's birth made me realize that she was wrong in both respects. I am an American and proud of it.

Returning from Italy refreshed and ambitious to continue my education, I moved back to Detroit in order to save some money and decide where to attend school. My new focus shifted to independent, city living and I found myself in the Midtown neighborhood of Woodbridge. It was during this 24 month stay that I fell in love with Detroit. I made the most of my time, feeling that I had missed the opportunity in years past and I experienced as much as I could of Detroit culture. Festivals, night life, restaurants, frequent visits to neighborhoods I had never seen and engaging conversations with strangers. It was one of the best periods of my life, but it didn't last long. I received a generous offer from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago to enroll in their Architecture program.

The first year I spent in Chicago was very exciting. The experience of attending a University and adventures in a new metropolis made the time pass quickly. However, it wasn't long before the Detroit nostalgia set in and it was even sooner that I understood where my home really was. After living for a time in my fourth urban landscape it became clear that Detroit was my true home; I missed people that I could run into on the street and have a 30 minute conversation about the new Chevy or Ford, chats with neighbors about how poorly the Lions are doing but always with a spirit of hope that they'll come around next year. I missed the wide assortment of bars and restaurants where it's likely that I would have a chat with the owner, I missed the pride I felt knowing that I live in a place with such a rich history and every day my family is deepening it still, I missed a city that's a little dirty on the outside but filled with an inner character that can't be described in words. I missed my home.

I decided to fill the void by immersing myself in political history; I wanted to learn more about the people that made this country and Detroit what it is today. In my spare time I read about all the greats: John and Bobby Kennedy, Coleman Young, Robert McNamara, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Ford, Lee Iacocca, Franklin Roosevelt, Dr. Martin Luther King jr., Albert Kahn and many more. I also did my best to stay informed as to the goings on in the City. Before long the years past and I finished my 5 year degree one semester early.

I'm back in Detroit now and more excited, ambitious and confident than I've ever felt before. This City has the potential and talent to be better than ever and I will do everything I can to see that it happens.

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