Challenge Detroit (Year 2) has come to an end. No more Fridays spent working for non-profits, no more “mandatory” cultural experiences, no more monthly reports. No more housing stipend, no more Fellow Facebook posts, no more blog writing. There will be no more “roundtable discussions”, feedback groups, design thinking days, leadership forums, or entrepreneurship panels.
Challenge Detroit was, and is, something very different for each and every fellow. I came to the program already having been active in the City, preaching high and low of its untapped potential, and having moved to live/thrive in this City. At first I thought that this program would bring recognition, social experiences, networking opportunities, even real estate clients. These things were very true, however it’s the unexpected things that made the program truly great.
Challenge Detroit is so broad, that it helps balance everyone in revitalizing a city. I leaned severely towards economics, real estate, engineering, and the technical aspects. Challenge Detroit, through the race and equity workshops, discussions on privilege and gentrification, deep volunteering activities, and exposure to those of “other political backgrounds” really opened my eyes.
I began to see my career track, my mission, and my purpose in a wider light. A light that better encompasses all of Detroit, honors and reflects the intentions of those I would otherwise not care or even know about. It helped people like me get over “white guilt”, and actually use that which would cause guilt as a strength to help others.
The leadership development Fridays and panels were undoubtedly my favorite physical aspects. Having the opportunity to meet and ask intimate questions of City Council Members, leaders of large foundations, founders of successful businesses and non-profits, and government officials was amazing. The leadership Fridays allowed me take my personal struggles and work through them with able-minded, and caring individuals.
The only request I have for future fellows: get and stay outside of your comfort zone. Live or frequently visit “the neighborhoods”, keep volunteering for that awesome non-profit, ask Shelley or Deirdre for the day off if you have a great event to partake in. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations. Talk to “real Detroiters”. Hold your head high, but extend a helping hand. Definitely don’t sit back, but please enjoy. You’ve signed up for quite the year.