Kellie Wasikowski is a 2022-2023 Fellow at Mosher Dolan. Learn more about Kellie below.

The Place In My Neighborhood

Challenge Fellows Eboni Thomas and Kellie Wasikowski are all smiles about the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at Campus Martius.

In September 2022, I moved down to Detroit from blissful little Alpena, Michigan, where I lived 4 blocks away from the long horizon on Lake Huron. I had been visiting the City a few times a year and I was ready to make a move; although you never escape the uncertainty of leaving your comforts behind for somewhere you have none. Nonetheless, I set off on my continued exploration of Michigan to check out the City where life is worth living. 

The first week living here I spent exploring my new neighborhood and soaking up the last bits of summer, idealizing all of this unexplored territory in my new city. But I woke up from my daydream when my car got stolen a few days before I started my job at my host company. Now this wasn’t supposed to happen! I had things to do and sights to see and this wasn’t part of my perfect plan moving here. But alas, it was a higher being’s plan and unfortunately was part of my reality. 

A few weeks into the program, we were wrapping up Challenge Detroit orientation and spent one of our last days taking a bus tour with the City Institute’s Master Guide, Jeanette Pearce. The amount of insight that she had connecting Detroit’s long history to the status quo provided a very unique outlook to all of us new Fellows. She had all ears on her that day, but one thing she mentioned at the end piqued my interest.

“There is a free walking tour of East Warren tomorrow morning, going through the East English Village and Morningside neighborhoods if anyone wants to join,” she said. ‘Morningside?’ I thought. ‘That’s where I live.’ 

The next morning I spent some time trying to convince myself to not go, that it would be easier to just stay at home and stay in the rut that I had been in. But my independent side got the best of me and I walked the 6 blocks to the starting point of the tour, where a small group of us slowly moved down East Warren and discussed the buildings and businesses. 

Our tour guide, Joe, Director of the East Warren Development Corp., knew the history of each building and personally knew the business owners who operated in them. He spoke about the different types of businesses that contribute to a healthy neighborhood and pointed out where they are along the route. And he even shared knowledge on the empty buildings we walked by, discussing how they are in the process of moving new businesses in or litigating to hold property owners accountable. He knew what was going on in every single building for blocks and blocks down East Warren. 

Listening to him talk brought this new sense of life to the corridor, a place that I only lived a block away from. I had been isolating myself after what happened with my vehicle, unable to figure out how to process it, but this afternoon helped me understand that there is so much good going on outside my front door by larger forces than just me. I am learning to overcome challenges and carry on, just like the City and people of Detroit have always done.

 About Kellie:

My name is Kellie Wasikowski and I’m here for the journey! I’m originally from Omaha, Nebraska and I graduated as a Cornhusker with my Bachelors in Environmental Science. Then I moved to Alpena, Michigan where I lived for nearly 4 years before coming here to Detroit. I love learning about people’s connection to the environment whether it be the Great Lakes, Great Plains or any other great place. If you don’t know much about Nebraska or the Great Plains, a great book I would recommend is ‘Buffalo for the Broken Heart’ by Dan O’Brien.

Why should someone apply to be a Fellow?

I would encourage someone to apply to be a Fellow because you learn so much from all of the Fellows’ perspectives and experiences, and it is rewarding to see everyone develop their leadership skills.