Francisco “Panchito” Ramirez-Rueda is a 2020-2021 Fellow. Panchito is founded both Your Voice Our Excellence, “a platform that showcases the resiliency, perseverance, and success stories of our communities to empower our audience,” and the Dreamers Soccer Clinic, “a program intended to encourage and motivate low-income youth to dream big and pursue higher education.”

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

My host company is Michigan Hispanic Collaborative (MiHC). Over the course of 10 years MiHC supports Detroit Latinx students to get to and through college. My role within the organization consists of mentoring and supporting our college scholars and families to ensure they have the proper resources to graduate from their university.

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

I am currently one of the 5 (team) leaders for Challenge #3. My group is called the mixed use team. For this project, we are partnering with Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation (GRDC). We are striving to create a retail footprint within the mixed use property that is reflective of the needs and aspirations of the community. We have been meeting with GRDC staff and intervening with the community to understand what they would like to see within this mixed use space. I am learning a lot from this experience such as the amount of time, funds and resources it takes to create a thriving commercial district. I have learned about the importance of listening to the community, their concerns and what we can do together to continue the revitalization of their community.

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

I am originally from California but moved to the state of Michigan in the Fall of 2019. As an outsider, I was naive about the history of the state of Michigan let alone Detroit. All I knew about Detroit was what was being said in the news. As I got to know Detroit and its people, I was amazed! Detroit is so much more than what the media portrayed it to be like. The people of Detroit are so resilient and have so much love for their city. As an outsider that is something I admire about the city. As a challenge Detroit fellow I hope to continue to learn about the city but foremost collaborate with my peers, nonprofits, and other important community stakeholders to help strengthen the city of Detroit.

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

What I am looking forward to the most is professional growth. I am just starting my professional career. Therefore I am excited to learn from my peers, alumni, the community, and the organizations we are collaborating with.

How do you believe your fellowship year will shape your career moving forward?

My mission in life is to make this world a better place. I do this by serving communities that need it the most. My ultimate goal is to return back to my community and lead Dreamers Soccer Clinic in a bigger capacity. At age 21 I founded Dreamers Soccer Clinic and in 2020 we became a 501(c)3 non profit. Dreamers Soccer Clinic uses soccer as a way to motivate youth to dream big, give back to their community, and pursue higher education. Through Challenge Detroit I have learned how to engage with non-profit leaders, how to lead a team, and execute projects, all vital skills needed to lead an organization. Every single interaction and task is contributing to my own professional development. I will forever be grateful for this city and the opportunities Challenge Detroit has provided me with.

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

I truly believe that in order to serve a community you need to take the time to understand their needs and their history. Once you take the time to understand the community and have some knowledge of their history you will be able to better understand and serve them. It is for that reason that if you are new to Detroit or perhaps have lived here all your life but have not tried to fully understand the history of your own community then this fellowship is for you. Not only will this fellowship allow you to understand the city better but it will also connect you with other community-minded Fellows as well as important Detroit leaders and community members who all have one thing in common; they serve the community of Detroit.