Tell us about living in Detroit. What neighborhood do you live in and what things make it unique and exciting?
I live in the Lafayette Park neighborhood, right across the street from Eastern Market. When it came time to deciding where to live downtown, I explored all different areas before I decided on Lafayette Park. The thing that drew me in most about the neighborhood was how quiet it felt. It’s like this little cul-de-sac with unique and interesting people inhabiting it. There are two churches within walking distance of my building that have bells ringing on the hour, half-hour, and quarter-hour. You would think that might get annoying, but I really enjoy it, especially in summer when I have the windows open and the breeze just sweeps the sound right into my living room. Being across from Eastern Market is extremely convenient. I had never been to Eastern Market before I moved down here, but it has become such an amazing resource to have. Waking up on a Saturday morning, walking around the sheds, picking up some fresh fruits and vegetables: there’s nothing better. I’m a stone’s throw away from Greektown and the rest of downtown, so whenever I’m feeling like adventuring into the congestion, I have that option. I’m also really excited to take full advantage of the Dequindre Cut this summer and riding my bike to the river walk.
What have you learned from Challenge Detroit so far?
Wow, how do I even answer this in a concise way? The learning experience that Challenge Detroit has provided so far has been endless. Every challenge we take on, every Leadership Friday we experience, every reflection circle we sit in, we are constantly learning more about each other, ourselves, and the city. I’ve learned more about people than I ever thought possible. I’ve learned more about this city than a textbook could ever show me. Most importantly, I’ve learned that there is WAY more to Detroit than the headlines say. I’ve always believed that but was so happy to realize it in my own experience through living and working and playing down here. I’m so proud to be a part of this program because it feels like the opinions of young professionals actually matter and belong here.
Tell us about your host company and your role in the organization.
My host company is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and I work in the Tower at the Headquarters in Auburn Hills. I’ve heard there are certain perceptions of those that work in the Tower as opposed to the rest of the facility and also heard it referred to as the “Glass Palace”. To that, I just laugh. Come on up and see how “palace-like” it is, and you’ll laugh too. At FCA, I work in External Affairs, the Office of Civic Engagement and Community Relations. Within the department, we are focused on charitable giving through grants and donations, as well as employee volunteerism and community involvement. Before working at FCA, I really had no involvement with nonprofits besides volunteering occasionally and working with my family’s foundation intermittently throughout my college years. Coming into a department that focused on grant-making at a large scale and volunteerism, I felt a little lost. However, my colleagues and supervisors got me all caught up and off I went into the world of charitable giving. I assist the department in anyway I can. I help facilitate the grant process for organizations receiving money, I help organize and promote volunteer events for our employees to attend, and sit in on a lot of conference calls to learn as much as I can from experienced professionals. Through all of this, I soon realized how awesome of a job it is to give large amounts of money and donations to deserving organizations and that I wish I could have this job for the rest of my life. Does that not sound like the most rewarding job ever?
What kind of impact do you hope to have with your host company and within the city?
Within my host company, I’m working to increase their internal and external communications, specifically on the volunteerism side of the department. Our employees do such amazing work on a weekly basis with organizations throughout the state and beyond that we should be sharing and bragging about. I’ve come up with a few initiatives and communications plans to implement throughout the rest of my time at FCA and further. The great thing about my host company is they truly want to make this the best experience for me and have catered many projects for me to work on with my communications lens.
My impact within the city can’t be done without the help of my current Fellows. However, I do want to make an impact through conversations with people in the city and outside to hopefully bring these groups together and help them understand we are all one and we are all going to bring this city back, together. I want to use my communications background to bring the people of the Metro Detroit area together and encourage us to all work as one unit, because when people work together that’s when the best work gets done.
What little known piece of Detroit’s history would you share with others and why?
Another tough question to answer. I honestly can’t pinpoint one piece of Detroit’s history that’s more prominent than others. But I will say that people believing in themselves and the city they reside in created each piece of history. That’s the best piece of history that Detroit has going for it, the fact that anyone can come here and make their mark if they work hard for it. Detroit isn’t Detroit because of the automotive industry. It is Detroit because of the automotive industry, the music scene, the food culture, and the people who make it up. Detroit gives everyone the opportunity to make his or her mark. That’s the best part of the history.
What would you tell someone who is considering applying to Challenge Detroit?
Do it. Apply. Bring your experiences and expertise to the table with other brilliant individuals and share it with the city that needs it most right now. We aren’t going to make a change in one year and be done. We need the momentum to continue for decades to come so that Detroit can be thought of as a great city, not just a great city that once was. Things aren’t going to progress if more young minds aren’t part of it. Where we lack in experience, we make up in creativity, ingenuity, and positivity.
Check out Grace’s spotlight video to learn more