Sydney Thomas is a 2020-2021 Challenge Detroit Fellow. Sydney grew up in Hartland, Michigan and has a background in Environmental and Plant Biology, as well as in Environmental Sustainability. Fun fact: Sydney completed her Masters in Scotland—a place she had never visited before.

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

My host company is DTE Energy, where I work on corporate citizenship and sustainability reporting. These reports share the progress and actions DTE takes on environmental, social, and governance issues to our stakeholders.

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

My team for our third Challenge project with Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation.

Our current challenge project is in support of Detroit Phoenix Center, a nonprofit that provides support and resources for youth experiencing homeslessness. My project is focused on developing recommendations and marketing materials for future partnerships to strengthen DPC’s emergency housing resources. From this experience I’m gaining a better understanding of the systemic problems contributing to youth homelessness, and how Detroit Phoenix Center is addressing these resulting gaps.

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

I hope to positively impact the community by lending my skills and experiences on our challenge projects, and by improving my ability to continue actively engaging in community work, both in my professional and personal life.

One positive of our virtual Challenge Detroit year is having more time with my favorite coworker, Niall.

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

I am most looking forward to continuing to build new relationships with community partners, gaining a better understanding of their unique mission, and hopefully developing deliverables that aid their work.

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

I believe this fellowship will shape my career by further solidifying the importance of centering the voices and needs of your stakeholders in every project. I plan to continue implementing design thinking into my work moving forward.

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

I would encourage anyone who is passionate about working towards more equitable communities to apply, particularly those that are unsure of how to get started in this work. Challenge Detroit is the perfect way to contribute to a variety of community projects, with teams of fellows with diverse skill sets and professional backgrounds, to learn more about your passions and your career interests.