My friends and I often joke that our lives growing up in Detroit would have been perfect material for a reality show. Not a reality show depicting blight and violence – words that some people automatically associate with Detroit – but a show filled with normal teenage madness: school, relationships, driver’s training, hanging out and extreme fun!
My childhood in Detroit was nothing short of amazing. I grew up in a middleclass neighborhood, attended some of the city’s most reputable schools, had an active social life and was involved in many extracurricular activities. Although I loved Detroit, I wanted to leave Michigan for college. I really wanted to move to Atlanta to attend Spelman College. So, after graduation, I did just that. Fast forward 10 years and I have lived in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, and I spent this past summer in DC. Challenge Detroit is what brought me back home.
One day while living in Tennessee, I was perusing Facebook and saw a post from a high school friend about a program that she wrote, “[sounded] like a great opportunity.” In her post, the word “Detroit” grabbed my attention and I had to know more about this opportunity. After reading as much as I could about Challenge Detroit, I knew I needed to apply. I submitted my application a few days later; the rest is history.
I feel extremely thankful to have been selected for this program. I received a lot of strange looks when I told people I was moving back home. However, once I told them why, the looks changed from incredulity to approval. The general consensus was, “That’s exactly what the city needs.” I couldn’t agree more. I remember back to a time a couple of years ago when I was talking to my mom and I randomly said, “If someone ever put together a program where you could come to Detroit and help rebuild the city, I would do it.”
Two years later and here I am! Orientation kicked off with a keynote speech from Mayor Dave Bing. The week also included talks from other heavy hitters in the area, professional development sessions, a ride on the People Mover (which I haven’t done in at LEAST 15 years!) and clean-up on the Detroit Riverfront. I also visited my host company, Focus: HOPE, where my manager set up meetings for me with the CEO (who will be my mentor!), COO and two Directors.
Focus: HOPE is a non-profit civil and human rights organization here in the city working to overcome racism, poverty and injustice. At Focus: HOPE, I am a part of the Community Development team, where I am currently working on recruiting for an entrepreneurship training program for entrepreneurs in Focus: HOPE’s target area. The work that Focus: HOPE has been doing for the past 44 years is meaningful, tangible and impactful. With Challenge Detroit, U-Haul and Focus: HOPE, I am so excited to be a part of this great work to move the city forward.