Tiller, Grills finalists in Detroit revitalization project

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Graphic design senior Brooke Tiller and alum Athena Grills are finalists for the Challenge Detroit urban revitalization program.

The program, which launched in 2012, is geared toward young men and women who have an interest in building Detroit into the thriving city that it once was. Since its inception, Challenge Detroit has made roughly $3 million in economic impact toward the city.

Challenge Detroit invites 30 individuals known as fellows to spend a year living and working in Detroit with various companies and nonprofit organizations.

“Fellows are passionate about the city, innovative thinkers and hard workers,” Grills said. “They have a vision and a supporting plan to make that vision possible. They are ready to hit the ground running and use their skills to transform Detroit’s communities in a variety of ways and are prepared to get out of their comfort zone and grow as individuals in an effort to better serve the city.”

Tiller is currently traveling abroad and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

These individuals take part in leadership development programs as well as monthly team challenges. Generally, this includes various acts of community service as well as working with up-and-coming businesses to generate strategies to highlight positive aspects of the city. This is an attempt to lay the groundwork to improve the city as well as convince the fellows that Detroit is a good place to call home.

Grills, a graphic design major and marketing minor, graduated cum laude in 2015.

As one of only a few people to be selected to the program, Grills hopes to use her artistic background in order to bring something unique to the table.

“I’m incredibly excited to have a chance to integrate myself into the community as a passionate artist and use my skills in that area to impact the city,” Grills said. “This is a huge opportunity for me to jump-start my career in a unique and effective way.”

Grills hopes to gain not only professional but also personal growth in her upcoming time with the program.

“As an artist, having an opportunity to use my skills to make an impact is my dream,” she said. “I’m thrilled by the idea of having an opportunity to get involved in the community and bring my energy to a city that I’m personally passionate about.”

Grills’ interest in the program generated early on in her first semester at SVSU, and she followed it closely throughout her collegiate career.

“I first heard about the program in 2013 during my very first semester at SVSU,” Grills said. “Over the next couple of years I gained confidence in myself in my field and decided to apply for the next challenge after I moved to the Detroit area in September. I honestly always followed the program and kept it in the back of my mind.”

Given the exclusivity of the program, Grills herself never expected to get this far, but she hopes that these limitations don’t deter others from exploring what Challenge Detroit has to offer. She urges people to simply go for it; if they are not selected, there are many alternatives to making a difference in their community.

“Go forth with confidence and have fun with the experience,” Grills said. “If Challenge Detroit doesn’t call to you and you have interest in becoming a community leader or philanthropist, volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. Whatever you’re passionate about, Detroit has a way for you to contribute to a cause using your top skills. Love teaching? Check out Teach for America in Detroit. Art major? Look into the Heidelberg Project. Want to feed the world? Forgotten Harvest needs you. Get involved and grow into the community.”