Isaac and a friend during a Halloween party for Urban Neighborhood Initiatives, an organization he volunteers for.
Billhighway is proud to be part of Challenge Detroit, an exciting, year-long initiative that retains and attracts 30 of the best and brightest young professionals to make a difference in the city of Detroit. To commemorate the six-month mark of his journey, our own Challenge Detroit fellow, Isaac Gilman, has graciously agreed to participate in a short interview to bring us up to speed on his experience so far.
Isaac has been working as an associate in Billhighway’s marketing department since August 2012. In this first installment of a two-part interview, Isaac shares with us his highlights on the four pillars of the Challenge Detroit program; live, work, play and give.
Billhighway: What is your favorite thing about living in Detroit? What neighborhood do you live in and what is your favorite thing about this neighborhood?
IG: There are so many events, shows, bars and restaurants, the options are endless. It’s also so easy to bike around the city. While known as the motor city, part of the culture change that’s happening is the consistent practice of biking around town. The city is flat with wide roads and light traffic and you save on gas and parking in addition to being able to discover hidden gems you don’t notice while in a car. Finally, everyone I meet wants to see Detroit succeed. The strong sense of community and collaboration creates a wonderful identity that I love immersing myself in every day.
I live in Midtown, which is centrally located and equidistant to Downtown, Corktown, New Center, Eastern Market, Woodbridge, and Lafayette Park. There are great music venues (Magic Stick, DSO), places to eat and drink (Motor City Brewing, Shangri-La, The Bronx Bar, Atlas Bistro), and a diverse group of people because of the institutions nearby (Wayne State, DMC).
Billhighway: What are some of the things you do for fun when you aren’t working or participating in your team challenges?
IG: I love hanging out with my friends, many of which are also Challenge Detroit fellows. After a challenge day (Friday), we go out and grab drinks at a new place we haven’t been to before. It’s so exciting to explore new places in the city. On Saturdays I almost always go to Eastern Market to shop for produce and try samples. I always try to attend at least a few of the countless events that are happening every week, such as the recent Detroit Winter Blast. For me, playing in Detroit is like being a kid in a candy store; I want to do everything.
Billhighway: Tell us more about how you are giving through the Challenge Detroit Program. What has been your favorite team challenge to date and why? In your opinion, why is it so important to give back to the community?
IG: A personal philosophy of mine is to give to the community, and Challenge Detroit encourages this by providing a number of volunteer opportunities for the fellows every week. So far our collective team has completed over 500 hours of community service! Giving back to the city you live, work and play in is a great way to learn more about your environment and helps you understand some of the struggles people go through on a daily basis.
My favorite challenge so far was our most recent one with Excellent Schools Detroit which focused on enrollment issues. In Detroit, children can enroll in almost any school in the city, regardless of address. Although some restrictions apply, many children enroll in multiple schools before deciding on one. This makes it difficult for each school to predict enrollment from year to year, and makes it difficult to manage budgets properly.
We proposed four recommendations to improve the enrollment process: a school enrollment hotline to keep parents informed, a mobile or permanent kiosk that provides a physical location for one-on-one education advisement, a grant program to encourage collaboration between schools, and a common application system to provide a streamlined electronic enrollment process. Together we believe these ideas could transform the Detroit Public School enrollment issues into a positive experience.
Check back next week for the second part of our interview with Isaac!
Challenge Detroit is accepting applications for its second year program through March 3rd. Read on for details or visit the Challenge Detroit website.