It was getting late – about 8pm last November. Varsity basketball practice had wrapped up and Detroiter Alyssia Akers couldn’t catch a ride home.
So 18-year-old Alyssia (pronounced: A-lee-see-a) decided she didn’t have much choice and started walking the five miles home from Central High on Detroit’s Westside.
What happened that night has shaped the direction of Alyssia’s life. She explains in her own words:
It’s a 45-minute walk home from school. My teammates’ parents and my coach are always great to give me a ride but this evening no one was available. My dad’s a single parent and was working overtime – we need the money so I wasn’t going to ask him to come get me.
I’ve walked home a few times with friends but since it was late there were no friends around.
Abandoned houses and buildings, and the debris that litters areas like this, line my walk home from school.
All the students know that there’s really not a safe way to pass down these streets – but doing it in groups makes it the safest. I live the furthest and tonight it was just going to be me.
Everybody knows we need to be careful on these streets – men hangout basically looking to get into trouble. There’s not much community activity and when it gets dark the streets and abandoned buildings are places where drug dealers, gang members and men just wanting to make a statement about themselves hangout.
As I walked I was talking to my dad on my cell phone to let him know that I was on my way home – when my phone battery died.
A man suddenly appears on the side of me. I was a little nervous because he was so close … he asked if he could use my phone.
I’m a pretty trusting person – if my phone worked I would have let him use it. I told him it’d died. “Did it really die?” he asked. I now realize that’s not what he was after – he was just distracting me.
The next thing I know I felt someone aggressively push me from behind and the guy on the side started to pull me.
Everything was happening so fast – I just realized I was getting pulled and pushed closer and closer to an abandon house. I was screaming as loud as I could.
The intersection where this happened had traffic and a corner gas station. I remember thinking “Why isn’t anybody trying to stop and help me?”
Well, call him a hero – or my angel, but as these guys were dragging me closer to the abandon house, a man walking on the other side of the street started running toward us, yelling to let me go.
His action was heaven sent, they bolted toward an alley between the abandon house and an abandoned church. I fell to the ground.
I was crying and traumatized. My rescuer was asking “Are you ok?” He walked me to a nearby McDonald’s where I called my dad who called a friend to come get me.
I was ok. But this experience has changed me forever.
But instead of turning inward and living a life in fear, something in me said I needed to prevent this from happening to others.
Since the assault I have learned that many students in my school have experienced this type of violence including rape – something I was saved from and possibly worse.
I’ve organized an effort where more than 400 volunteers are helping board up and paint the abandoned buildings that surround Central High.
Thanks to Detroit’s Youth Voice, a student-led program that helps organize communities, I’m being mentored in the important leadership skills it takes to make changes in our communities.
I was thrilled that MTV told my story along with those of two other Detroit students. You can watch it here.
Doing work like this is just a start for me. But I can see that it’s important that I have the education that will empower me to influence city and state officials to help this great city.
To continue in a significant way I need to attend college. I’ve been accepted to Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
I want to pursue an education that can help me return and do organizational work to help make Detroit a safe place – wherever we live, work and go to school.
Will you help me by donating to my college fund?
I’ve got financial aid grants and scholarship money but need about $2,000 more for my tuition.
You can donate here and receive a tax deduction at the Scholarship Academy. Click Here to Donate to the Alyssia Akers Scholarship Fund
I’m very thankful for all of your support and money so far. With all of your help I can get to Bowling Green, and make you all proud!