Zharia Terry is a 2021-2022 Challenge Detroit Fellow. She hails from Pontiac, Michigan and earned an Associate of Arts and Communications from Oakland Community College, and a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology from Michigan State University.

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

I work for DTE Energy where we aspire to be a force for good in the communities where we live and serve. At DTE, I work within the HR and workforce development unit where we focus on ensuring minorities, veterans, and people with barriers have access and job awareness to employment opportunities within the utility industry. I also focus on building partnerships and programs that directly connect diverse students to meaningful careers in energy at DTE and beyond.

At DTE Energy I had the opportunity to volunteer at Capuchin Soup Kitchen where they strive to feed bodies, nourish spirits and strengthen communities. I was able to replant curly kale inside of their greenhouse, which is one of the many things they grow.

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

We are on Challenge number 3! We currently have the privilege of working with Brilliant Detroit, where they focus on building kid success families and neighborhoods. They focus on family support, quality education, and health, all while keeping the child and family at the core. It’s so heartwarming to work alongside the team at Brilliant Detroit. They have shown me the difference between a community center and a neighborhood center. I’ve also learned the importance of paying attention to small details. For example, at one of Brilliant Detroit’s neighborhood hubs, they ensure everything in the room is at child level which coincides with their mission. How brilliant?!


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

I would really love to lead by example in portraying the difference in working with the community instead of for the community. I plan on using my active listening skills to ensure the voices of the community are heard. Taking it a step further, being intentional on having the members of the community at the table every step of the way is also one of my top priorities. Everything I’ve learned at Challenge Detroit will allow me to utilize these skills no matter which community I am serving. My goal is to be a positive influence that provokes change within the community and its members.

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

DESIGN THINKING! I cannot express enough how beneficial this process has been to my life. I have begun utilizing parts of this method with projects I’ve worked on outside of Challenge Detroit. It really allows you to ensure you’re working with the community and solving their problems instead of what we presume to be the issue.

During Challenge number 2 I was nominated by my peers to be a team lead. These pictures display my group and I during one of our brainstorming sessions. Within the team lead role I wanted to ensure my team felt a sense of support, unity and pure joy. We dressed alike each week to help reinforce that goal.

What has been your biggest takeaway from your time as a Fellow so far and how has it impacted you?

One of my biggest takeaways from my experience at Challenge Detroit is to always be willing to be a student. If you remain open to listening and learning you’ll always grow. There’s always so much more to learn! If you always want to be the “expert” you could be missing out on opportunities for improvement. Having this mindset allows me to remain open minded, curious and eager to learn. I never want to feel like there’s nothing else for me to learn in regards to any subject because if so, that’s a recipe for me to become stagnant and could result in me fighting against change and evolution.

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

You do not have to have your life all planned out before joining Challenge Detroit. So many of us are still figuring it out, AND THAT’S OK. Challenge Detroit exposes you to so many different opportunities that allows you to explore what it is you actually like and don’t like. You have access to a network of people and organizations who want to see you succeed. I’ve learned so much about myself through this experience and each challenge allows me to learn something new. I’m constantly being pushed out of my comfort zone. I’m constantly growing. And I’m constantly gaining new skills. If you’re considering it, take the challenge.