Thomas Cairgle is a 2021-2022 Fellow. He hails from Detroit, Michigan and attended Howard University where he graduated with a ​​Bachelor of Arts in Media, Journalism, and Film (Communications).

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

My host company is DPSCD where I work as an Instructional Materials Coordinator. In this role I mainly assist the Instructional Materials team with ordering, organizing and maintaining various learning materials for schools. This role requires me to be in constant communication with teammates to ensure the timely shipment of textbooks and other items. Additionally, when I wasn’t working with Instructional Materials, I assisted the Operations and Partnerships department with building out documents, knowledge articles, and systems for future use by employees.

Tell us about a challenge project you’ve worked on, what have you learned from the experience?

The most recent, and my final challenge project was working with Motor City Street Dance Academy (MCSDA) where I served as our team lead. This experience taught me a lot about community arts organizations, and how they can help serve neighborhoods by providing creative outlets and space for youth to exist outside of school or home. Our team’s intention was to help build a youth intervention program for MCSDA to follow as a semi-formal guideline. This project taught me a lot about how behavioral issues usually stem from social-emotional needs not being met, and how to counter that without dramatic measures.

Me and a teammate getting critical feedback from Mav, the founder of Motor City Street Dance Academy who also served as our partner liaison for the organization.

How do you hope you impacted the community as a Fellow?

I hope that the work I did during this past year has helped to provide smaller organizations with the labor they needed to be the most impactful to their respective communities. I love to be a bridge between people and ideas, and I hope that sentiment is reflected in the work I’ve done. I also hope that in some way, shape, or form, the work I have done has contributed to someone getting access to a resource they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to get access to.

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

Organization, ideations skills, and adaptability. Because of how Challenge Detroit is set up, and because of the limited time to work on each project, it can push you out of your comfort zone (in a good way) which makes you learn how to think on the fly and adapt to different situations. Also a lot of the work we did made me better at organizing ideas and thoughts in a digital context.

Since becoming a Fellow, what is something you have learned about Detroit that has positively impacted your perspective on the city?

At the beginning of the program year we took a few Detroit history tours, and one specifically by Jamon Jordan about the Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhood’s demolition was very special. I knew about it already but it just shed light and gave more context on the economic underdevelopment of the city’s black population as well as current infrastructure issues.

A picture of our team visiting the Detroit Historical Museum during one of my favorite leadership Fridays.

What would you say to someone who is considering applying to be a Fellow?
Go for it! For me it was a great opportunity to grow my skills and be in spaces I never would have otherwise. It’s also great for connecting with other like-minded people who all do different things.