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Incoming Ross First-Years Help Detroit’s Brightmoor Community Rebound

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What better way to get to know your business school classmates than by working together to make an impact on a local community? At the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, first-year MBA students are doing just that as part of the school’s annual Impact Challenge. The unique, immersive leadership development program, organized by the Sanger Leadership Center, brings together the entire class of incoming Ross first-years for a week-long, intense business challenge designed to make a difference in Detroit’s Brightmoor community.

As part of the 2015 Impact Challenge, incoming Ross first-years will work together with close to 60 local high schools students, helping them develop business plans and products for the brand-new Brightmoor Maker Space—a community workshop and incubator where ideas generated by teens and community residents will come to life. The Ross MBA students will also organize a Maker Faire and pitch competition for the teens.

ross brightmoorThe incoming Ross first-years will work hand in hand with Detroit leaders and youth over the course of the week to launch the Maker Space. Tomorrow, August 27th, the Ross MBAs will organize the Detroit Youth Maker Faire, which is expected to draw 1,000 attendees from the community to watch the youth product pitch competition, the school reports.

On hand will be expert judges from Deloitte and General Motors—this year’s Impact Challenge sponsors—who will select winning products and award seed funding to the winning teams to help get their entrepreneurial efforts off the ground.

The week-long Impact Challenge is just the beginning, though, in terms of the Ross students’ involvement with the Brightmoor community. A group of MBA and undergraduate students from the Sanger Leadership Center will continue to work in partnership with the Detroit youth and leaders for the next eight months, helping transform the Maker Space from concept to reality.

With construction set to begin this winter, what is now a vacant 3,200-square-foot building on the campus of the Detroit Community Schools will be transformed into a vibrant community workshop—a space where high school students from under-resourced Brightmoor can gather to develop skills in woodcraft, metal work, printmaking, screen printing, multimedia tools and more. In addition, the community workspace will also be home to organizations like the Brightmoor Youth Garden and B’Moor Radio, which will help the neighborhood youth learn to grow and sell their own produce and create and produce a community radio program.

“The Impact Challenge is a cornerstone of the Ross experience, as it demonstrates the power of business to be a force for positive change, while also providing Michigan Ross students with an amazing opportunity to learn outside of the classroom and make a lasting impact on Detroit,” Scott DeRue, associate dean and director of the Sanger Leadership Center, said in a statement.

He called this year’s challenge particularly exciting because it connects MBA students directly with Detroit’s next generation. “Many students come to Michigan Ross because they want to leverage business to have an impact in the world, and the Impact Challenge is the beginning of that legacy,” De Rue adds. “We call it positive business.”

Though the Impact Challenge debuted just five years ago, Ross has hosted community service projects in Detroit for more than 20 years as part of welcoming incoming first-year students to the Ross MBA program. Some of the past Impact Challenges have included raising more than $65,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and putting on a large back to school fair filled with products, features and activities to help more than 3,000 Detroit kids and parents get a positive start to the school year.

Keep tabs on the progress of this year’s Ross Impact Challenge on Twitter and Instagram using the tag #RossImpact. Click here to learn more about the Impact Challenge.