I think back to completing my DukeEngage application and distinctly remember reflecting on the fact that I had never felt like I was truly impacting a company when previously completing internships. Though I believe I’ve had certain experiences that contradict this notion, I feel that it’s true for the most part. I applied to DukeEngage Detroit because I had talked to previous participants in the program and done my research; I knew that I would be an integral part of a smaller-scale social entrepreneurship if I was accepted into the program. My expectations have been met and far exceeded with Detroit Food Academy. To provide some background, I have been tasked with working on all kinds of marketing, production efficiency work, website development and “alumni/fellow development”. I’m specifically going to focus on this last project throughout this blog post because it has certainly been the most fulfilling.
Detroit Food Academy fellows are 17-18 years old and are individuals who have excelled in the program. There are currently five fellows, and each one has been placed at a job site for the summer through DFA. Lee and I are working one on one with each of these fellows throughout the summer. We are creating resumes and digital projects for each fellow, designed to show off their skills and talents (with a focus on future career opportunities) in the most creative and aesthetic way possible. The project ideas currently include a YouTube channel, websites and LinkedIn pages. To augment these digital projects, Lee and I are creating a six-part video series (five individual videos featuring each fellow and a sixth that combines shots from the other videos) for DFA to use on their social media accounts and website. The fellows will also be able to use their individual video in whatever way they want to. During our first check-ins with each fellow, I often asked whether they felt like DFA truly impacted their lives. I remember talking to one specific fellow, to whom I explained that I wasn’t really a full-fledged DFA employee and thus that I’d really appreciate hearing his authentic sentiments on the topic. He told me “DFA genuinely changed my life and I think I’d be fighting on the streets without it”. I’ve heard similar things from the other fellows and truly believe that DFA is changing Detroit with each new venture they start. My boss Julie (who specifically works on the fellowship program) focuses on developing a personal relationship with each individual she mentors. I've seen her commitment to personal development manifest itself in life-changing ways for each fellow.
I’m ecstatic that our fellows are excited about their videos and want to inspire others with their own experiences, especially because I was extremely conscious about exploitation when learning that I would be working on marketing for DFA and know are a multitude of sensitive issues to consider when filming someone and broadcasting/marketing their “story” for the benefit of a larger establishment.
I just attended Detroit Demo Days last night and witnessed an alum (only a year older than me) pitch DFA in front of 13,000 people and win $50,000 for the cause. My colleagues and the alumni/fellows I work with constantly inspire me to push myself. I couldn’t be happier with my experience so far; I’m grateful to be a part of an entity whose message and purpose I fully believe and I’m constantly surrounded by individuals who use their drive, resilience, and intelligence to uplift those around them. I believe in the impact of the projects I'm working on, and that fact provides an unparalleled sense of purpose and motivation for everything I work on this summer.