Samantha Rudelich is a 2019-2020 Challenge Detroit Fellow. She hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan and has a bachelors in Business Management from the University of Alabama.

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

My host company is Clark Hill, PLC, an international law firm headquartered in downtown Detroit. At Clark Hill, I work as a Financial Analyst on the Business Analytics team. We focus on compiling key metrics for senior business leaders and providing attorneys with information on their clients, matters, and budgets. Currently, our team is designing proactive models to meet our goal of becoming an American Lawyer Top 100 Law Firm.

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

Currently, our challenge project partner is Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) and we are tasked with planning their Spring Youth Leadership Conference. This project has been an incredible experience in learning design thinking and working alongside student leaders in the planning process. I’ve enjoyed seeing the district’s commitment to amplifying youth voice in order to create positive change.

My team specifically focuses on outreach and partnerships. Through this process, we are learning how to creatively deliver products for the district that they can immediately start using in order to identify partnerships for the conference to be successful. Since the district is incredibly skilled in partnerships, our goal is to add to this skillset in our own creative way. Through this part of the project, we are exploring how to bring youth into the creation and mobilization of local partners. Detroit’s youth are constantly impressing me with their vision and commitment to their community. It’s been a great honor to pave more ways the district can develop their leadership skills.

How do you hope to impact the community this year?

Motown Panel discussion at Detroit Homecoming Conference

I hope to impact the community by learning and listening to people and their stories. I believe that it is through the process of conducting empathy interviews and ideating alongside community members, we come closer to co-creating creative solutions to better our community. I’m hoping that I can use my past experience in nonprofits and my current experience in a corporate space to bridge the disconnect between communities and businesses. 

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

One of the alumni Fellows, Medvis Jackson, invited our cohort to Detroit Homecoming. Detroit Homecoming is an annual conference that aims to bring back expats to reinvest in Detroit. We attended their Friday morning programming that included panels covering education, the arts, and the role of foundations in the city. The most exciting panel of the day was the Motown Panel that brought together Motown singers Martha Reeves and Norma Fairhurst, guitarist Dennis Coffey, sound engineer Edward Wolfrum, and arranger Paul Riser. I’ve loved Motown all my life and seeing the people behind the music was an incredible experience. You could feel the love for music they created together at Motown. Edward Wolfrum told an unforgettable story about working with Marvin Gaye’s, “What’s Going On” album behind Berry Gordy’s back. This album stepped out of the Motown box of feel-good music because of its political nature. Wolfrum said Gaye knew it was a risk but said he, “was on a mission from God” to talk about the social issues of the time. This window into the passion and bravery of one of my favorite Detroit artists reignited my love for the beauty and art in the city.

Mural in the room we conducted our first empathy interviews at Osborn High School

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

One of the most memorable moments from this year was while visiting Osborn High School on Detroit’s east side. We were conducting empathy interviews for our project with DPSCD and listening to students share their experiences when the principal stepped in. She reminded them, “You create your own story and you are not a statistic.” Principal Crockett’s words have stuck with me since that day and throughout this first project where the focus is students’ voice and leadership. Her commitment to students looking positively to the future, no matter what their past struggles included, was inspiring. It was a great teachable moment about the power of storytelling and the ways that we can mentor students to use their story to advocate for themselves. As a program, we often discuss the power of storytelling as a way to return ideas and solutions to the people they were created with. Through the empathy interviews, I was humbled in the reminder that student empowerment through storytelling is the ultimate goal.

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

Challenge Detroit is a great opportunity to humbly learn about the history and look to the future of the city. At every point in the process of applying, interviewing, and accepting my offer from Challenge, I’ve gained more knowledge about this city that I love. This program provides exposure to bright young people energized about progress in Detroit. This energy is crucial to continue the fight for equity and justice.