Detroit has been my home for over five years now. I recently graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy with my Masters of Architecture, and prior to that my B.S. Architecture degree. My parents were nervous to send me to Six Mile and Livernois, but somehow I convinced them it was the place for. In the five years I lived on campus, I saw many improvements to the area, street lights being installed and upgraded, blighted houses become move-in ready homes, Belle Isle become a state park and more recently the street scape upgrades on the Avenue of Fashion.

In the past six months of Challenge Detroit, I have seen more of Detroit and it’s hard-working people than I ever did in those five years. I always knew the people of Detroit couldn’t be stopped, and now I know they do not waiver in their undying love for their City.

The challenge project I enjoyed the most, thus far, was working with Rebel Nell and T.E.A. I have eyed Rebel Nell jewelry each time I’ve gone to Eastern Market. I loved their pieces, but would never take the leap to buy them. After visiting the production site, meeting the women and learning about Rebel Nell’s and T.E.A.’s missions of teaching, empowering and creating a platform for women within Detroit to achieve stability – I cannot get enough of their jewelry – a symbol of dedication to one’s self and the ongoing perseverance of Detroiters. 

The project with T.E.A. centered on the overall question: “How might we effectively teach the foundations of financial education to improve quality of life for Detroit women living in poverty?” As a member of the Learning team, we were tasked with the question “How might we shape a relevant learning experience so that our participants are fully engaged?”

During stakeholder interviews, one interviewee our group met with proposed the concept of a binder. This reminded me of a similar binder I received during an eight week course at The Build Institute. The business and project planning class was designed for aspiring and established entrepreneurs. Building off concepts presented in that binder, our team created monthly budget plans, external resource guides and a money saving calendar. Combining the deliverables from each of the three teams, we were elated to present T.E.A.’s staff with the framework to empower women.

Synthesizing the conversations I had with my parents in 2015, during an incredibly weak point in Detroit’s history, of how Detroit needed to be my home, the changes I’ve observed taking place in the last five years and the opportunities Challenge Detroit has afforded me in Detroit, I am honored to be contributing to the community development and betterment of our City.