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Mackenzie Teacher Drives Student’s Rise and Supports the Community With Tree Planting and Wellness Fair on May 20

For Detroit Public School Community District (DPSCD), Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School third grade teacher Shirley Brezzell is spearheading a tree planting, community wellness fair and gardens restoration event on Saturday, May 20, 2023, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at Mackenzie.

“I want our grounds to be plush, a park-like setting for our children to play and learn in,” said Brezzell. “It (planning the event) is my reasonable service.”

She said, this is a way for her to contribute to her school as well as give back to the neighborhood in which she is from.

With support from Mackenzie Principal Monique Dooley, school staff and caring partners, the realization of Shirley’s vision will start with the planting of 50 trees on Mackenzie’s property along the fence line to the side of the building. In addition to beautifying the grounds surrounding the school, the planting of 50 trees will also serve as an educational tool.

“Our third-grade curriculum spends vast amounts of time talking about squirrels and birds,” said Brezzell, who doubles as a pathfinder master guide, equal to an Eagle Scout, when she’s not teaching. “When we plant those 50 trees, all the native birds will come back. There are robins, sparrows, chickadees, blue jays, and cardinals. All of those birds will come back, and our kids will be able to see and experience them.”

Having attended several DPS schools as a child and a teenager (Shirely is a Cass Technical High School graduate), she relates to the challenging circumstances that her students, their families, and community often face. That understanding, along with a nudge from the American Asthma Foundation, sparked the idea to include the community wellness fair as part of the tree planting day at Mackenzie.

Slated to be held inside the school, the community wellness fair will feature more than 25 vendors. Along with American Asthma Foundation, other caring partners will provide insight and services for diabetes/hypertension, cancer screenings, mammography, dentistry as well as vaccinations and COVID-19 boosters from the Detroit Health Department (DHD). DPSCD’s Office of Enrollment will also be in attendance, with on-site enrollment opportunities and information on how to enroll in a DPSCD school.

The stewardship of  Mackenzie’s hoop house behind the school will include the installation of multiple sensory gardens providing students, particularly those on the autism spectrum disorder, with the opportunity to experience the array of senses associated with gardening, such as: feeling the dirt from the ground on your hands; tasting grown harvest such as peppermint and spearmint as well as hearing the wind blow, amplified by ringing wind chimes. The enhanced gardens will add to Mackenzie’s ongoing practice of sustainability at the school, including growing and eating produce like fresh lettuce, cooking and eating microgreens.

“My class recently grew four varieties of microgreens. We cooked and ate them in a sautéed butter sauce over rice,” Shirley recalled. “You would have thought I gave them (her students) chunks of gold to eat,” she said with a smile.

The community is invited to be part of this banner day, Saturday, May 20, 2023, at Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School, located at 10147 W. Chicago in Detroit, MI, 48204. With registration beginning at 9 a.m. and the activities running until 12 p.m. Volunteers are needed for the indoor community wellness fair. Please email your interest to Shirley Brezzell at For more information on the programming and activities available to your child at Mackenzie, please click here. DPSCD, the Future is Rising!