2019 United States Ford College Community Challenge Winners

The following universities have been selected to receive a Ford College Community Challenge grant of $25,000 in order to lead transformational change in their community. Each project will be led by students who will work with a nonprofit to address one of the following categories: social mobility, smart mobility or building a sustainable community.

Image of seven males, six students and instructor in garden, encircling gallon plant container about to fill with nearby dirt atop light blue splotch

Optimize Eastern: Community Impact - This Eastern Michigan University project provides a setting for students to engage with Ypsilanti, Michigan, businesses and nonprofits.The grant will support recruitment to build 12 core project teams.The largest portion of the grant will fund the eight-month workshop utilizing design thinking strategies to help students identify community health, education, housing and workforce development issues, as well as plan solutions for the challenges each presents.The project is slated to culminate with a public showcase event displaying prototypes to the community, followed by a large conference for the city and the EMU campus to encourage public support and engagement in the projects.

Grounds for Growth - The Illinois Enactus student group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign proposes to expand the upcycling of discarded coffee grounds that creates sustainably sourced soap and scrub products created by people developing work skills. In the project, people served by Restoration Urban Ministries manufacture 100 percent eco-friendly Grounds for Growth bar soaps with sustainable packaging. The student leadership concentrates on public relations, marketing, business opportunities and operations. Students also plan to expand selling the soaps beyond the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois area through community events and online marketing.

SLCC Eats - The Salt Lake Community College Eats program from the Student Leaders in Civic Engagement proposes to balance the nutritional inequities 23% of community college students face by helping hungry students find and get the nutrition they need to stay focused on school and work. The grant is earmarked not only to align and elevate the conversation of justice-oriented food systems, but to establish SLCC Eats pantries as the umbrella for food access, nutrition and financial planning. The project intends to expand to six school campuses at SLCC through access to ready-to-eat meals that supplement the pantry’s grocery products. Aquaponics will allow for an expanded garden that also removes mobility barriers.

Greener Side of Bags - Students at Centenary University in Hackettstown, New Jersey intend to use their grant funds to develop a program that keeps plastic and burlap bags out of landfills, while providing an income stream for women living in a local domestic abuse shelter. The upcycling of plastic bags into grocery bags and wine and shopping totes is in advance of New Jersey’s ban on plastic bags. To elevate the project, business students will work with fashion students to open the shelter’s sewing room by providing eight sewing machines. While marketing skills will be in full force to raise awareness of the reusable bags, the timeline includes opportunities for adaptation of the bag with input from fashion students based on customer feedback.

Public Transportation Safety Initiative - The Sustainable Spartans student organization of Michigan State University intends to use their grant to light the way for MSU students, helping them catch the Capital Area Transportation Authority bus safely. Poorly lit stops are prohibitive to student use at night, as well as a source of aggravation when there is not enough light for a bus driver to see people at a stop. Since incoming freshman are not permitted to have vehicles on campus, the bus becomes important to reach night classes, workshops, employment and recreational activities. The project installation is appealing to engineering and design students, as they will have an opportunity to make parts for the fixtures, while environmental science students will appreciate the renewable energy source.

SHAPE for Women - Harvard University’s Refresh Bolivia returns to build on their 2018 Ford College Community Challenge win. The 2019 Sanitation, Health, Awareness, Planning and Education for Women Program is designed to be accessible to more than 40,000+ women in the community. The sanitation element includes production of low-cost, reusable menstrual pads while the health aspect includes establishing a medical space specializing in gynecological and obstetric equipment to help detect and treat cervical cancer, the most common cancer among Bolivian women.The facility also plans to address the women’s resistance to use government hospitals, due to years of systematic discrimination against indigenous people.

PolliNation - Students at University of Michigan-Dearborn intend to use the grant funds to build hotels for insects, which are important pollinating agents for 95-percent of plant species. Environmental Science, Environmental Studies and Engineering students will build insect hotels and the public will get a look at these structures in two public workshops. As many as 15 Dearborn Public Schools will get a hotel and as many as 180 hotels could be placed throughout the city.

Healthy Oasis: Transforming Nardin Park - Auntie Na’s Student Organization at the Wayne State University School of Medicine intends to use their grant funds to continue the sustainable community healthcare work of Mrs. Sonya Brown, “Auntie Na.” The grant will also create a self-sustainable system that provides food security while promoting healthy food consumption. The new urban garden is intended to serve as a teaching tool, while the group works to expand the Healthy Detroit Corner Store Program to two additional stores to better serve residents.

Sustainable Urban Landscape Collaborative - To help alleviate the impact of flooded basements common in many metro Detroit neighborhoods, the Detroit Biodiversity Network students of Wayne State University have a project to watch. Flooded basements bring with them chronic and infectious diseases, especially among children and seniors, and this project utilizes WSU’s existing Detroit hydrology research to incorporate green stormwater infrastructure. Students will also grow native Michigan plant species for the community and aid with installation. In addition, the project will develop a new community component to increase awareness and participation in the current program.

P.O.S.T. - From the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, the Public Opportunity Support Terminal funded by this grant aims to provide inhabitants with community benefits, special events, public safety, job posting, emergency and landmark information, plus census survey collection capability. Through a dedicated, interactive physical communication structure located in downtown Detroit, tourists, visitors, and residents can find information on special events happening in the community. The community also will gain from the increase in broadband accessibility.