By Vickie Thomas
It is often said that Detroiters are even more down on their city than some outsiders. City residents who feel that way can learn from a group of 66 finalists in the Challenge Detroit competition. While some Detroiters are packing up and moving out, these visionaries are fighting for one of 30 spots to live, work and play in Motown for a full year.
They come from the east coast, the west coast and also from right here in metro Detroit. They converged on the Doubletree Suites – Fort Shelby in downtown Detroit this week for an orientation and for job interviews with companies that have agreed to hire the 30 finalists.
Cerima Thomas drove 13 hours from her home in the Bronx to be here. “A lot of people tried to stop me from coming,” she said. “They were like, it’s so dangerous. Don’t go there. But, I’m like, everywhere is dangerous … I love doing community service and that’s what drew me to this opportunity.”
Thomas went on to say, “It’s so exciting. Sometimes when I thing about it, I want to cry. I made it this far.” The New Yorker also said,
“Anything is possible. The opportunity is once-in-a-lifetime. “
How does Thomas feel about Detroit? “It’s a great city. A lot has come from the city and people tend to forget what this city has brought to the country.”
April Pagnani from New Hampshire wants to help jump-start Motown. “I love the idea of just being able to revitalize the city and being part of a community in a collaborative project. So, I’m here trying out,’” she said.
The young professionals selected will earn a salary of $30,000 for the year. They’ll receive a $500 a month housing allowance and will participate in group challenges once a week. The finalists were selected in part on videos they produced which demonstrate their passion for Detroit and their desire to make a difference.
Challenge Detroit is the brainchild of Doyle Mosher, President and Chairman of the Collaborative Group. He has watched the videos dozens of times. “On average, probably 50 times each,” he said. “You have to understand Vickie, this is seven years in my mind … and when the videos came online, it was like this dream come true,” said Mosher.
Mosher said if the effort implodes it may point to what’s in store for other hard hit cities. But if it explodes he said it will become the model for the rest of the nation on how to turnaround a city on the brink of collapse.
Myles Morgan of Highland Park, Mich. is also a finalist. He loves the idea of Challenge Detroit and believes it will help solve a major problem in the city. “There has been a brain-drain in Detroit and so a lot of the problems that we have-because we don’t have the minds to solve them, they persist and get worse,” he said.
Challenge Detroit is funded by donations. Don Voss of Credit Acceptance Corp contributed $500,000. To learn more about the effort and the 66 finalists, visit the website at www.challengedetroit.org.