“We were blown away by how confident and leadership-driven DPSCD students are, and they were extremely kind and caring of each other. Our key insight from the project was that today’s youth in Detroit want their voices to be heard and that they want the opportunity to speak at a youth conference, not only be spoken to.”

As a team of young professionals, we have had experience attending conferences. We also have an idea of what works at these conferences and what doesn’t. More specifically, we have a good understanding of what people our age would like to experience at a conference. So we were excited when presented with the opportunity to propose and develop content as part of co-creating a student leadership conference for our first challenge project of the fellowship.

Yet, we quickly realized that being young professionals didn’t necessarily mean we would know what students wanted out of a conference. Although one of our interviewees did think that we were high school students ourselves :), it was clear that if we were going to build a successful conference for students, we would need direction from actual students and create it with student.

Luckily for us, the students at Detroit School of the Arts (DSA) were more than willing to assist us in our efforts. All events at DSA are organized and run by students, so these students were the perfect teammates for us. We were blown away by not only their input on planning an event but by their embrace of equity, empathy, and their willingness to empower each other. 

Our conversations with the students at DSA, as well as a conversation the following week at the Fisher Building with students from many other high schools across the district, left us with a long list of content ideas that included everything from talent shows to empathy workshops. Over the course of the next few weeks, we worked to develop an engaging day’s worth of content that focused on 4 key areas: Health, Hustle, Future, and Leadership. By focusing on these areas we maintained the student’s original ideas and organized them into a cohesive conference format.

As the conference content team, we provided the following tangible deliverables: 1. Vision/Concept; 2. Program Agenda (full agenda and “at-a-glance”; 3. Visual Program Agenda; 4. Conference Invitation Templates; and 5. Speaker List (with specific categories and contact information, including student speakers!) 

Our hope is that the content created for SEE (Student Empowerment Experience) conference will serve not only as an example of what we can create through the use of the design thinking process, but also as a testament to the creativity, confidence and leadership of DPSCD students. 

DPSCD Challenge Content Team: Alyssa Williams, Adit Ahmed, Kaitlin Lapka, Jacob Jones and Rachel Pisano