Impact Stories

First-person stories from people impacted by Ford Fund

Roberto Teran: The Angel of Clark Park, Southwest Detroit's Historic Playground

Roberto Teran head shot in black and white with dark hair, wireframed glasses, mustache, Ford Community Corps T-shirt and work glovesFord in white script blue oval logo to left of white horizontal line with FORD VOLUNTEER CORPS in white left of line, all atop navy blue background ALL STAR in navy blue atop white background with gold star trophy as letter A. Roberto Teran

Dearborn, Michigan

● Senior Powertrain Engineer
● 30-year Ford Employee
● Clark Park Project Leader, 18 years
● Director of Community Outreach, Ford Hispanic Network

The volunteer events that Ford supports and allows me to do reaffirm that I am helping in a more personal and immediate way. At the beginning of each annual Clark Park clean-up event, I stand on a ladder to give instructions and thank my fellow Ford volunteers. Then I tell them, the job they do today requires no report-outs, no recorded AIMs issues, no 5Ds or paperwork or electronic tracking of any kind. Just a good day's work.

"They always cheer."

As a 30-year powertrain engineer, Roberto Teran knows a thing or two about data collection, analysis and reporting. He also knows the powertrain controls on his computer screen today will not be in a vehicle and on the road for years to come. For more immediate gratification, he turns to the volunteer efforts of his beloved Ford Hispanic Network—one of the company's many employee resource groups and Ford's trusted go-to resource for Latino matters.

"It is a great way to recharge my battery and warm my heart," Teran says.

Roberto Teran atop a ladder at the front of a large group, seen from a distance

Teran is speaking specifically about his effort to maintain and preserve a historic playground in Southwest Detroit. Clark Park has seen generations of Hispanic American families play on its baseball diamonds, swing on its swings and soak up the sun on its park benches.

"This was my parents' neighborhood park from the time they came to Detroit from Texas in 1946. I feel a connection to this place through my parents and older siblings. Before my father died in 2010, I made it a point of taking him to Clark Park after each annual clean-up for a picnic with my wife and kids," Teran said.

Teran's father was a Ford employee for 38 years.

Clark Park is well known in Detroit for its extraordinary community programs and sports facilities—all of which are made possible by a large coalition of corporate volunteers, local residents, nonprofit organizations and city support.

Keeping the park clean and maintained is where Ford comes in. If Ford Hispanic Network is the truck driving the coalition, Teran is the powertrain in that truck.

Since Teran began participating in the annual clean-up events 18 years ago, he has taken on increasingly more responsibility with each spring event. Today, he is recognized as the leader. He recruits assistants from the Ford Hispanic Network, and makes a task list for the volunteers. He and Clark Park staff order supplies from Home Depot.

"In years past, I had a partner. But he retired two years ago. So I rely more and more on Ford Hispanic Network members. My ‘cement team' is a diverse group of people who just gravitated to that assignment about six years ago and just keep coming," he said.

"This event has its own community."

Roberto Teran atop a ladder in far right of frame as 50-plus crowd of Ford Volunteers in blue shirts stand and face Teran while some clap.

Clark Park has become known for its exceptional sports programming, including an NHL regulation-size outdoor hockey rink, where the Red Wings have been known to practice. Hundreds of kids participate.

Still, Clark Park isn't all about sports. There are photography workshops and a homework club. There are vegetable gardeners who teach kids and adults how to grow their own healthy meals and snacks. There is college preparation, even transportation to take high school kids to college campus tours.

Over the years, Teran's recruiting of volunteers has become too successful. There is a waiting list to participate in the Clark Park event because the slots for 200 volunteers fills up early.

Teran and the Ford Hispanic Network have initiated additional activities at Clark Park, including a fall clean-up to prepare the park for winter. Two years ago, Ford Hispanic Network established a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math) program for students of Western International High School, which is located across the street from the park.

In keeping to his no-metrics, no-report-out promise, Teran has developed a definitive way to know his labor of love is paying off.

"We measure our success by seeing the increased use of the park by residents and businesses in the community. The first year I did Clark Park, I was part of the woodworking team replacing broken and missing boards on nearly every park bench in the park. Once they were all fixed, the number of new repairs dropped significantly. Our work encouraged better care of the park," said Teran.

Roberto Teran talks with four Ford employees in Clark Park

"One of the most special moments was when an older citizen across the street from the park walked over to me and my crew and thanked us for cleaning up the lot next to the park where people had started dumping."

Apparently, she had tried previously to get the debris moved but with little success.

For as much as he loves the immediate satisfaction of using his hands to build, clean and repair, Teran has found a passion for teaching as well. For the past four years, he has served as a technology mentor and coach for middle and high school students taking part in robotics competitions. And no less remarkable is his commitment to Operation Good Cheer, the annual Christmas drive for Michigan foster children, which Teran has been active in since he joined Ford in 1990.

"I enjoy working for the benefit of others. The opportunity Ford gives me increases my pride in the company. My parents were always helpful and caring people and everyone loved them. Living with that example is what shapes a person's values. I have been taking my son Miguel to help keep Clark Park clean and safe since he was seven. Today, he is 18 and starting college. He has seen and learned many things from volunteering.

Managed by the Ford Motor Company Fund, the Ford Volunteer Corps is a global network of Ford employees and retirees who have contributed more than 1.7 million volunteer hours in community service projects since 2005. To celebrate 15 years of serving communities around the world, Ford Fund is recognizing 15 Ford Volunteer Corps All Stars—Ford employees who are dedicated to community service, and go above and beyond in their efforts to help people in need.