Hannah Rainaldi is a 2021-2022 Fellow. Hannah hails from Tempe, Arizona and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Critical Ethnic Studies from Kalamazoo College.

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

In September and October, DPSCD recognizes and celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month. This is an example of content I created for my office’s social media. Following the theme of “The Fabrics that Weave Us Together”, I highlighted contemporary designers from Latin America who’s work connects them to their heritage and identity.

This year I am working with Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) in the office of Equity, Advocacy, and Civil Rights. This department works to increase understanding and application of equitable practices across the district, as well as advocate for and support the needs of the DPSCD community. Notable and exciting projects I’ve been a part of include facilitating trainings and workshops for students and staff around issues of equity, gathering student voice on district practices and culture, and creating content for district celebrations of diversity and heritage. Most recently, I conducted interviews and created a video of students sharing their ideas on how to heal our communities from the effects of racism for this year’s National Day of Racial Healing.

Tell us about your most recent challenge project; what did you learn from the experience?

Currently, we are transitioning from a challenge project with the Metro Detroit Black Business Association (MDBBA) into a project with the Marygrove Conservancy. In our last project, my team was tasked with designing a system for performance assessment at MDBBA. This was something new for me and I learned a lot about how to measure success in projects and an organization as a whole, especially how important it is to recognize areas for growth and improvements and create actionable plans to reach those goals. Most importantly, I learned a lot about the design thinking process in practice as well as practices for collaboration and communication in collective projects. The insights I’ll carry with me to our next project include extending grace to others and to myself in hard times, meeting people where they’re at, and approaching everything I do with curiosity and an openness to listen and learn as much as I can.

Since becoming a Fellow, what new skills have you gained?

The most impactful skill I’ve gained since becoming a fellow is a newfound confidence in myself and my work. Through leadership training with Challenge Detroit, advice and guidance from Alumni, and the mentorship of leaders in my host company, I’ve learned to truly value my efforts and abilities and to apply my initiative and drive in all I do. My mentors at DPSCD have taught me so much about advocacy in communities, and also shown me how to be a strong advocate for myself, communicating my needs, setting healthy boundaries, and constructing spaces that support success. I feel I have advanced immensely this past year in my abilities to take initiative in projects and cultivate a sense of pride in my work and my professional achievements. Building my confidence in professional settings will open up so many opportunities for me in the future. The ability to show up in my full capacity and wholeheartedly advocate for myself and others will set me up to be a strong and supportive leader in my community and in the next steps of my career.

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

This fellowship has undoubtedly affected my career path and shifted my perspective to allow me to refine and hone my professional skills and career goals. Coming from an interdisciplinary educational background and with work experience in nonprofits and social justice work, my interests and passions are quite widespread. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work within the school district, which has helped me realize education is a space where many of my disciplines come together. I’ve also had the chance to work with amazing leaders in equity work within the educational system, from whom I am learning invaluable lessons about advocacy and transformational change that will follow me wherever I end up next. Through this fellowship, at my host company and in challenge projects, I’ve been given space to take the lead on projects and learn through applied practice, which has allowed me to grow my skills in project management, organization, design practices, and much more. Having access to an incredible support network through Challenge Detroit, and being connected to leaders in the educational system who mentor and guide me in my work is another incredible aspect of this fellowship year which has shaped my future plans.

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

In my time as a Challenge Detroit fellow, I’ve already learned so much about Detroit and have been introduced to so many exciting people, projects, and places. I would absolutely encourage people to apply if they’re interested in building deeper connections within the city and expanding their networks. Every week I meet new people and generate more points of connection with my community here in Detroit. This program has been an incredible way for me not only to further my career goals and develop a clearer understanding of the work I really want to be doing, but also to grow as an individual and a member of my community. Challenge Detroit provides an incredible network of support through a year of learning, growth, and refinement.


I created these questions to guide my conversations with students for this year’s National Day of Racial Healing. The students’ answers were featured in a video shared with the DPSCD community. Click to see full size.

This is a flyer from a Coffee and Conversation event for Ability Awareness Month in October that I helped organize and facilitate. DPSCD staff, alumni, and parents shared their experiences with navigating different abilities in school and work. Our conversation led us to discuss how we can support everyone’s abilities as a school district. Click to see full size.