Johnathon Matthews

Johnathon Matthews remembers looking out his Cody High School office window across Cathedral Street three years ago – before Life Remodeled led the effort that created Hope Field and the site of the Comets’ first home football games in seven years.

“Anytime we start questioning what we can’t do, that field is a symbol that says we can do big things,” said Johnathon, principal of the Academy of Public Leadership at Cody. “It was just an open field. The city wouldn’t even cut the grass. Hope Field gave a reason to care about this community again.”

Today, the $1.2 million field is lighted and a running track is expected to be installed around the field this summer. Many other positives resulted from Life Remodeled’s 2014 Cody Project – its first partnership with Detroit Public Schools and most impactful to date. More than $5 million of in-kind and financial contributions resulted in a state-of-the-art medical simulation lab, STEM lab and a donated industrial robot is part of training students in programming.

“All of us in the community really had to be self-reflective on what more can we do, now that we have these resources,” Johnathon said. “What’s common in education is that we write things down on paper and that is usually the end of it. After Life Remodeled, we were able to actually create pathways. We did not have an excuse not to do it anymore.”

Beyond the in-school improvements and symbol of community pride that Hope Field brings to Cody Rouge, Johnathon said the regular involvement of members of Novi’s Oak Pointe Church has been “the most dramatic outcome of the relationship with Life Remodeled.” Valuing people over projects is a Life Remodeled operating principle.

“It’s hard to visualize that without experiencing it,” Johnathon said. “Sometimes you don’t know what the need is until it occurs. I credit the staff at Cody for being open, self-reflective and seeing where the needs are and for Oak Pointe seeing where they could help.”

Oak Pointe pastor Kurt Abler is assigned to Cody, matching school needs from academic tutoring to mentoring the robotics team and coaching the swim team with church volunteers. “It’s been three years and people see Kurt as part of the family,” Johnathon said.

“We have trust, and that is something that is really key. The community now trusts that when people come here, it is going to mean good things,” he said.

Asked to rate on a 10-point scale his hope for Cody Rouge, Johnathon responded without hesitation, mentioning that the absence of graffiti from the neighborhood was a turning point.

“I’ve got to say it’s up there between and 8 and 9,” he said. “I’m not going to say perfect, but it is healthy.”