“Leadership is not just about taking charge, it could be just looking out for someone and having their back,” said Darell from Central High school. This is just one of the many perspectives we heard by meeting with high school students from across Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD). For our first project of the Challenge Detroit fellowship program, our team, the Youth Voice Team, was tasked with co-creating a sustainable youth leadership program that students would be able to implement. While our other peer teams of Fellows focused on co-creating a student leadership conference entitled “SEE” (Student Empowerment Experience), we focused on what could happen beyond that event.

We created SPEAK.

It all started after meeting with students from DPSCD high schools like Cass Tech, Northwestern, Cody, and Pershing. The entire process was intentionally built around student voices and making sure we listened and understood their needs and wants in terms of leadership.

Our team created key insights from these interviews and used them to ideate off of in order to truly find what would benefit them the most. There were six major themes that resonated the most with the student which were: events, community, social justice, mental health, and accountability systems. All were important and we were able to come up with a proposal that would include all of them.

SPEAK is the next natural step we are recommending after the SEE conference. Our group’s initiative was to give students the platform to speak up and lead within their schools. The motto that resonated with us out of this ideation process: first you SEE then you SPEAK.

SPEAK is created to link students with staff champions, and DPSCD members so there is a clear path from students to DPSCD administration. It is a model that seeks to have an existing student leader inspire new students in their school communities through mentorship, community building, and open paths of communication with school leaders. We were able to compile all of the needs of the students into one major toolkit. This main deliverable includes recommendations and resources that elevate student groups and peer-mentorship. Within the toolkit, we highlighted strategic ways that would build the capacity of the student leaders while at the same time, recognizing strategies for sustainability. It is specifically designed to be flexible according to the need of each school/student group. Ultimately, SPEAK is designed to be fully led by students and for students.

DPSCD Challenge Youth Voice Team: Dillon Brown, Elena Luedy, Maleeha Ayub, Lauren Gallagher and Harmony Rhodes