Vanessa Vela is a 2020-2021 Fellow. She grew up in Detroit and is “excited to learn, grow and create a larger impact.”

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

My host company is Brilliant Detroit and we are dedicated to building kid success families and neighborhoods where families with children 0-8 have what they need to be school ready, healthy and stable. We do this by providing proven programming and support year round out of Brilliant Detroit homes in high-need neighborhoods. I get to be a part of this by being the Community Engagement Manager at the Springwells location.

Brilliant Detroit hosted outdoor Martial arts at the Springwells location this past fall with all safety precautions in place. We are still offering this on Zoom due to the weather.

Tell us about the challenge project you’re currently working on; what are you learning from the experience?
We are just getting started on the third challenge project and we are going to be working with Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation. My team’s focus is to strengthen and bridge the commercial corridors in Grandmont Rosedale through small business engagement and creating a vision for connecting the neighborhoods.

How do you hope to impact the community as a Fellow?
I want to impact the community by being able to connect the resources I discover along the way. I also aim to be able to bring more knowledge to those who are not aware of the Springwells community to visit and be involved. Lastly, I am aiming to be a role model for those in the community to look for opportunities to grow and organizations to expand their networks by partnering with organizations like Challenge Detroit.

What are you most looking forward to as a Fellow this year?
This year I am looking forward to the new experiences that we have whether they are in person or online. I am excited to see how creative we get when it comes to team-building and leadership experiences. One of my favorite things about leadership is being able to learn all the different styles of leadership.

Growing up leadership has always been important to me and my dream was to be able to be that person in my community for others.

How do you believe your fellowship year will shape your career moving forward?
I believe that my fellowship year will be able to teach me different ways of working in my career, whether it be as a team or individually. I am looking forward to growing and being a well known community leader who can be a resource to all!

If someone is reading this and considering applying to be a Fellow, why would you encourage them to apply?
Being a Fellow allows you to grow in your career and as an individual. No matter the amount of experience you have or information you have on the city, there is always something new to learn. As a Fellow you are able to make an impact on different organizations by working alongside them. A year-long commitment will allow you to build numerous relationships and connections, along with being able to step outside of your comfort zone.