Andrea Gutierrez is a 2021-2022 Fellow. Andrea grew up in Oscoda, Michigan. She attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a sub plan in Law, Justice, and Social Change.
Tell us about your host company and your role in the organization.
My host company is Michigan Community Resources, also known as MCR. Michigan Community Resources is a non-profit organization that provides various services to other fellow non-profits who primarily serve low-income individuals and communities. My role at MCR has multiple layers. First and foremost, I am the Program Manager for our Office Hours Program. The Office Hours program runs monthly and provides non-profit organizations in all phases of their process, to meet with lawyers to receive pro-bono legal services and/or to meet with professionals who specialize in organizational development known as capacity building. Running this program, I process applications, schedule appointments, track program data, and most importantly, connect with clients. Connecting with clients includes various emails and phone calls to learn more about their mission(s) and ensuring that we are able to assist them through the best services by building personal relationships and an element of trust. Another connected part of my role is being on the legal team, which has helped and continues to help me to learn about non-profit law. Knowing the basics of becoming a non-profit, and learning more, has helped me to assist clients and direct them to the right resources. These roles at Michigan Community Resources have allowed me to use my passions for racial and social equity in a way that I didn’t even know was possible.
Tell us about the challenge project you’re currently working on; what are you learning from the experience?
Currently, our newest challenge partner is Brilliant Detroit. Within our project with Brilliant Detroit lies eight different teams with eight different goals. I am working on the Morningside Team. Morningside is a neighborhood on the eastside of Detroit. For this challenge project, my team’s goal is to find measurables for kid success specific to those who live in the Morningside neighborhood. As someone who is new to the city of Detroit, I have found this project has helped me learn about the individualized plans that need to be intact to provide resources that support the goal of equity. This project has really highlighted the diversity and uniqueness of each neighborhood in Detroit. Each neighborhood has its own culture, its own talents, and its own agendas. With my team’s focus being on the Morningside neighborhood, I have had and will have the unique experience of learning about a specific community.
How do you hope to impact the community as a Fellow?
As a Fellow, I hope to impact the community in various ways. One of the ways I would like to help the community is through providing resources. Through the direct work of Challenge Detroit, I have been able to work with various organizations to help them reach their goals of community outreach and creating equity. I would also like to impact the community through service. Challenge Detroit has given me the opportunity to meet many community leaders, who have brought awareness of various service projects and/or organizations looking for a helping hand. Through both of these processes I find the most important impact to be that of creating connections. As someone who is not native to Detroit, I have come in with little knowledge of the city and its people. Because of this, I have found that by myself I don’t have a clear understanding of how I can best impact this specific community. Building connections with my cohort and our partners has shown me that the best way I can impact the community is through constructing relationships with community members and assisting in any way that is needed.
Since becoming a Fellow, what is something you have learned about Detroit that has positively impacted your perspective on the city?
Something that I have learned about Detroit that has positively impacted my perspective on the city is the sense of community. Even being a city as large as it is with a diverse population, there is a connectedness between the residents through the city’s shared culture. Witnessing unity has allowed me to see the city as one.
How do you believe your fellowship year will shape your career moving forward?
I believe this fellowship will shape my career moving forward in various ways, but one of the most important ways is through the design thinking process. This process (empathy, define, ideate, prototype, and test) is not only effective, but it is a very humane way of creation. One of the highlights of this thought process is developing and maintaining empathy for the target user/audience. Design thinking also makes you take your time and reflect on the deliverable/outcomes multiple times relying on a large amount of thoughtfulness.
If someone is reading this and considering applying to be a Fellow, why would you encourage them to apply?
Considering applying to be a Challenge Detroit Fellow? DO IT! This program has been so incredibly life-changing. Unsure of your next steps? Challenge Detroit. Want a change in career? Challenge Detroit. Need to strengthen your skills on your resume? Challenge Detroit. Want to make a difference in the best city in the nation? Challenge Detroit.
This program has allowed me to work on various projects strengthening my professional and personal skills. Graduating during a pandemic was difficult, especially without a clue as to what my next steps would be. I was at a loss and did not know where to begin with the job search. Learning about Challenge, I knew this would be a great opportunity to 1. Relocate to the vibrant city of Detroit, 2. Try out different skills that I hadn’t had the chance to, and 3. Meet and connect with incredible people of diverse backgrounds. Being introduced to the design thinking process has been incredible for my professional and social skills. I believe that Challenge Detroit is a great fellowship for anyone looking for new opportunities. Although I am not yet done, I know that this yearlong program does not just impact the year, but it can help shape your life.