Jen and Noam, the founders of Detroit Food Academy found Desmond when he was sixteen, a self confessed aimless youth. He was the product of an inadequate higher education system. He had dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen. “Meeting Jen and Noam changed my life” he said. They acted as his anchors, and he got involved with DFA’s program. It gave him the direction and purpose that he needed. He stayed involved with DFA, navigating his way around a commercial kitchen, developing the Mitte Bites and learning the ins and outs of sales. It eventually gave him enough confidence to make it out on his own and find his passion. “There was nothing to hold me here anyway. There was nothing the city could offer”. This line said more to me than a heart wrenching story of his teenage. It was the story of hundreds of youth from Detroit.
After 3 years he came back because he realized that his calling was the work he did at DFA. He wanted to be involved in the lives of the youth the way Jen and Noam had been in his. He came back and picked up the ropes pretty quickly and was soon production manger. When I asked him if he saw himself staying on with DFA he did pause for a heart beat and then he said yes. Because it had given him more than he could hope for. He wanted to continue the good work and touch lives. I did not get a chance to ask him what social innovation meant to him or if he considered Detroit a reformed city. It was enough for me to realize that social innovation is something that can bring someone back to a place he was desperate to leave and actually want to make a change.