By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — As she organizes cans of corns during a hands-on volunteer service activity at a local food bank, Dearborn resident and Challenge Detroit Fellow Tina Saad thinks of the bigger picture on helping different neighborhoods in Detroit.
The 28-year-old applied to the Challenge Detroit fellowship earlier this year to put her social work degrees, knowledge and experience to the test through the organization she described as “phenomenal.”
During her fellowship, Saad will partner with the DTE Energy Public Affairs Department to work on the health and well being of the organization through community participation.
“Living so close to Detroit I was never exposed to certain things, but I have always been interested in the city, the economy, different neighborhoods, systematic issues,” she said. “Macro social work, which is what I studied, focuses on the bigger picture.”
Saad graduated from Edsel Ford High School in 2008, from Wayne State University with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work in 2017 and Master of Social Work in 2018 with a focus on innovation in community, policy, and leadership.
She also completed an internship with Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in the Domestic Violence Unit and developed a research project to measure the impact of litter on Belle Isle Park’s land and waterways through Belle Isle Conservancy’s “Keep Belle Isle Beautiful” anti-littering campaign.
It was during her time at Belle Isle where Saad meet a former Challenge Detroit fellow who informed her about the fellowship program.
Saad said she hopes the fellowship helps her get into the community policy and leadership field because that is the area of social work in which she wants a job.
The fellows will work in teams on five- to six-week projects with the non-profit organizations to tackle a range of issues, according to a news release. Each project is valued at $25,000.
“Challenge Detroit is a one-year program that gives chosen fellows the opportunity for employment at a leading Detroit-area company, while spending one day a week collaborating with area nonprofits,” according to the release. “Fellows will address regional challenges and opportunities like youth development, homelessness and food security.”
Applications from the fellowship began in March with a written essay, personal video and interview before fellows were chosen by the respective hiring companies.
Challenge Detroit Program Director Shelley Danner said after applicants apply, there is a public vote to narrow down applicants based on their videos, a two-day Detroit interview trip, tour of Detroit neighborhoods and a mini-challenge.
“DTE Energy has supported us since the beginning seven years ago and we enjoy working with them because their values align with ours,” she said. “They have hosted 12 Challenge Detroit fellows.”
The hiring companies, along with Challenge Detroit, interview and review applicant submissions before selecting the final group of fellows.
Challenge Detroit’s seventh year began in September with “an immersive, week-long orientation where fellows will learn more about the program, the city and the nonprofit they will be working with during their first challenge project,” Challenge Detroit Executive Director Deirdre Groves said in a news release. “Following that week, fellows will dive into their year of learning by doing immediately.”
During the year-long fellowship, Saad and the 26 other fellows will share their experiences through blogging, social media updates and video logging.
For more information about the fellowship or Challenge Detroit go to www.challengedetroit.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)