Challenge Detroit fellowship program focuses on improving the city

Cayla Smith, Campus Editor

Thoughts of graduation and what to do post-grad can be daunting, but a fellowship could help clear the way.

Challenge Detroit is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that began in 2012, while the city of Detroit was in the middle of a recession. This fellowship program helps put individuals with leadership skills from the city and across the country with host companies that help accelerate their professional growth.

The program received 400 applications for this year’s cohort, but after an extensive interview process that lasts three months 60 applicants made it to the final interview and only 30 of them get to be a part of the cohort.

After being accepted into the program, Monday through Thursday is spent at the individual’s host company.

Host companies in the past have included General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Michigan Opera Theatre, DTE Energy Foundation, Detroit Land Bank Authority, Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, Ally Financial and MetroEHS.

The host companies review the applicants they are interested in interviewing, based on the materials that are submitted for the application process of Challenge Detroit. Then the host company and candidate rank their choices to get a match. This ensures that a fellow is paired with a company they would like to work for.

“You are under no obligation to accept any of the offers, Paulette Bolofer-Fulkerson, the talent and engagement manager, said. So if you get an offer from an organization you are not interested in, you are not obligated to accept that offer.”

On Friday, fellows work together on intellectually based projects for local nonprofits. There’s a waitlist of nonprofits that are looking to work with the program. The nonprofits chosen for this year include Generation of Promise, Empower, Grandmont Rosedale and the Detroit Phoenix Center.

“Our fellows really explore different topics, and work with different nonprofits,” Bolofer-Fulkerson said. “This experience is a good introduction to different work in the city.”

When the program ends fellows stay with their host company, start their own business, go on to graduate school or go into a new job.

At the time, Bolofer-Fulkerson was working at Cranbrook Horizons Upward Bound. The students that she worked with were from Detroit, and she wanted way to connect with them. She found that Challenge Detroit could help her do that.

“One thing I walked away with was this network of people and relationships,” Bolofer-Fulkerson said.

She also mentions that Challenge Detroit focuses on all parts of the city and not just the downtown area, making sure that the parts that don’t get publicity or attention are focused on.

“Challenge Detroit helps to share a different narrative about Detroit,” Bolofer-Fulkerson said.

Applications aren’t open until February, but individuals can sign up to be reminded.