“For me, being a part of Challenge Detroit means more than just a chance to advance my career. It is an opportunity to give back to my community, to be a catalyst for change, and to play a role in shaping the future of Detroit. By working side by side with like-minded individuals who share a passion for the city, I am confident that we can make a meaningful difference.” -Von Ellis

“The Goonies” (Von is located on the far right, white t-shirt.) “The rose, still growing from the concrete.”

Finding Balance

Growing up in Detroit was rough, but my parents allowed and encouraged me to “go out and play. From the moment I asked to go outside, to the time I asked to play my first organized sport, they made sure I stayed active. Seeking every opportunity accessible to youth in the black community, in between sports, I was involved in after-school programs that piqued my interest academically.

Fast forward into adulthood, the qualities I picked up through childhood play – social skills, teamwork, learning to follow before trying to lead, the meaning of hard work and sacrifice – have made me an asset when it’s time to work. I received my first job, in the 9th grade, at the Detroit Zoo. Through college I worked at places like Walmart and Twin Peaks, while also working to maintain my grades. After graduating from Jackson State, I became an educator for Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD). And although I have enjoyed my life in the workforce, it is hard to find a work-play balance.

Being a Challenge Fellow has given me the opportunity to not only create that balance but combine work and play. After stepping away from DPSCD, Challenge Detroit paired me with my host company, the Youth Development Resource Center (YDRC). At YDRC, we are dedicated to the advocacy and equity of all out-of-school time programs throughout the Detroit area. Working at YDRC, I have the opportunity to strengthen youth programs in my community using several training methods and resources, while visiting these programs to interact and play with their youth.

ABOUT: What up Doe Detroit, it’s Von, a Year 12 Challenge Detroit Fellow originally from the Eastside of the city. I attended Mumford High School, where I would play football, baseball, and run track; later, graduating from Jackson State University with a bachelor’s in biology. Now back in Detroit, I’m a Program Associate at YDRC, actively volunteering with grassroots organizations, such as New Era Detroit, and coaching middle school basketball.