Elena Luedy, a 2019-2020 Challenge Detroit Fellow at host company Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA), grew up in Canton, Michigan. Elena graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a bachelors in Growth and Structure of Cities and a minor in Environmental Studies.

One of the perks of being on the Projects Team is touring some of the projects we work with! This is when we toured Herman Kiefer, an old hospital that is currently part of several new redevelopment projects.

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

My Challenge Detroit host company is the Detroit Land Bank Authority, a quasi-governmental organization that sells vacant land and structures across the city in order to bring them back to productive use. At the Land Bank, I work on the Projects team, that deals directly with community partners and economic developers. As a Project Liaison, I primarily work with purchasers as they complete the final paperwork and monitor them until they finish the project. Many of the projects that our team works with include urban gardens, commercial building rehabilitation, and the building of parking lots.

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

Currently, I am working with Detroit’s Office of Civil Rights, Inclusion & Opportunity, or CRIO for short. My team is working to increase residents’ awareness of CRIO and the services they provide. We are still in the early stages of this project, and I am excited to see how our journey progresses. In our first challenge day, we were able to hear from various staff in this office and many other departments and learn more about their history and what their roles within the department are. One interesting fact that I learned was that the City of Detroit is one of the only cities in the U.S. that require large development projects to give back to the neighborhood they build in. During my studies as an undergraduate, I knew that this was something the city had implemented, however I was unaware of how closely this was monitored or regulated. 

Tree planting at Cody Rouge with the Greening of Detroit. It was definitely tough work, we even had to use a pickaxe to break up some of the dirt!

How do you hope to impact the community this year?

Since moving to Detroit this past August, I have been trying to interact more with the city outside of what is required of me. So far, I have been doing this by volunteering with various organizations, visiting Detroit’s museums, attending community meetings, and attending various ‘pop-ups’ that happen around the city. I hope to impact the community this year by continuing to be active in events both big and small in Detroit. 

Since becoming a Fellow, what have you learned that you didn’t know previously?

I moved to Detroit because I felt it was important if I was part of the redevelopment of the city to actually be part of the city. Since moving here from the suburbs, I realized how much I didn’t know about the city and it’s neighborhoods. Knowing Detroit is more than being able to spit out odd facts or being familiar with the written history; it’s knowing smaller details such as which place has the best catfish and how long you have to wait in line for it. I’ve only just begun to learn these more intimate details of the city, and I look forward to continuing my Detroit education in the months to come. 

Please share the most memorable moment you have experienced so far as a Fellow. Why was it memorable and how has it impacted you?

Our first Challenge Project was working with Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD); this is my team outside Cody High School after we finished conducting interviews with some current high school students.

Thus far, my most memorable moment as a fellow was our first challenge presentation day. Having worked with my own group for five weeks to produce something we were all proud of was fulfilling in itself, but to be able to see how all the groups came together to create something worthy of making the partner liaison cry tears of gratitude was truly a moving experience. For me, this moment reaffirmed the work that we do on Challenge Fridays.

If someone reading your interview is considering in applying to be a Fellow, why would you encourage them to apply?

Being part of Challenge Detroit is a great opportunity to meet new people that are passionate about Detroit, provide invaluable work to non-profits around the city, and learn more about yourself in the process. There are few jobs that can can boast just one of these things; Challenge Detroit offers all of these and more.