Dorothy “Dee” Smith is a 2020-2021 Fellow at Teen HYPE. As a native Detroiter, Dee is excited to connect with others that are passionate about using their skills and experiences to move initiatives in her hometown forward.

Tell us about your host company and your role in the organization.

Teen HYPE is the awe-inspiring organization that I not only have the honor to call my host company, but my extended family for over a decade. Over 16 years, Teen HYPE remains dedicated to Celebrate Youth. Confront Barriers. Build Bridges. Ultimately, through deliberate actions centered around leadership development, health education, and arts education, Teen HYPE provides social emotional tools that get youth ready for the world. My seat on the bus is the Senior Manager of Development. I am charged with working with our youth, CEO, staff, and Board of Directors to grow our mission and impact’s sustainability. The thing I love about my current role is that I have the privilege of challenging myself, team, and the community to make a true investment into the future of Detroit’s youth. For me it’s not simply about raising funds, it’s about creating and strengthening a village of support for the next generation to be ready to lead.

D Smith with Teen HYPE CEO (Ambra Redrick) and HYPE Alumni at a Teen HYPE Annual Theatrical Production.

Tell us about the challenge project you’re currently working on; what are you learning from the experience?

Currently, I have the pleasure of leading a team of my peers to create an innovative training enchantment in partnership with NPower. NPower is committed “to move people from poverty to the middle class through tech skills training and quality job placement.” This project has shown me so much about my leadership style, both the strengths and areas of growth. In addition, I had meaningful conversations about the digital divide in our great city. This project further demonstrates the power of the saying “Give a person a fish and they’ll eat for a day. Teach them to fish, and they will eat for a lifetime.” Through this project I have been inspired to challenge others in my network to not simply provide a resource. As community members, we must be evermore aware of the overarching barriers affecting the access to such resources and needs of our community.

How do you hope to impact the community as a Fellow?

I’ve been dedicated to the development of Detroit’s communities and youth for over a decade. Nevertheless, I am constantly amazed at how much there is to discover in Detroit. There are amazing people doing work that will impact generations to come. As a Fellow, I hope to challenge myself to create impact by ensuring their work and stories keep momentum. That is the biggest impact one can have on a community… Aligning purpose with missions that change the world.

D Smith with Teen HYPE Peer Educators at TCF Center Event.

Since becoming a Fellow, what is something new that you have learned?

During my current challenge’s ideation stage I’ve learned how to be more attuned to the needs of those on my team. I know I am a results-driven leader. This can be a benefit to producing. Nevertheless, sometimes, people need the space, time, and flexibility to think about how to produce a result in a creative way. I ended up pushing pause on our ideation process and encouraged our team to take the time to individually reflect until our next Friday meeting. I cannot say I was not nervous to adjust, but the end result was a refreshed team that showed up the next week with “the sauce” to take our project to the next level. This experience stands out to me because it allowed me to truly see the importance of trust and flexibility as a leader. I plan to carry this new self awareness and balance as a leader into my approach to leading teams moving forward.

D Smith helping to lead a leadership discussion with Matthew Schmitt (previous CD Fellow) and Teen HYPE Peer Educators_Teen HYPE Lock In (before the pandemic).

What are you most looking forward to as a Fellow this year?

I am a person who cares about long-term impact. As a Challenge Detroit Fellow, I want to know that whatever we do as Fellows helps the organizations we serve to move a concept or initiative to the next level.

If someone is reading this and considering applying to be a Fellow, why would you encourage them to apply?

If you are a person who cares about the community and those around you. If you are a lifelong learner and open to new ways to enhance your leadership and technical skills. If you believe growth and refined purpose can come by serving others, you should apply for Challenge Detroit today. Even during a pandemic this fellowship has afforded me many opportunities to discover hidden skills, gain confidence, and connect to others in meaningful ways. You don’t want to miss this opportunity