Eastern Michigan University has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Ford Motor Company through its highly competitive Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3).
Ford C3 is a cutting-edge, grant-making program created to inspire student teams to develop innovative community-building projects addressing local needs – the premise being “Making Lives Better.”
This $25,000 grant will support EMU’s Optimize Eastern project. Optimize provides students a space to engage with their community while working to solve challenges. Students have the power to make a difference in Ypsilanti by forming teams and working together to directly promote changes in social mobility, education and health.
Optimize has completed its first year and was able to support five projects, with 18 students getting involved.
Tiarra Stallings, Optimize Eastern’s treasurer and social media strategist, encourages new team members to join.
“We are always recruiting for new core team and project team members,” Stallings said. “Anyone who is passionate about having a positive impact on the community around them should definitely consider joining.”
Stallings hopes that Optimize will become a space for students to feel empowered and make a difference in the world.
“A lot of times, we look at an issue and feel like there is nothing we can do about it,” Stallings said. “Optimize encourages students to identify solutions to real-world problems head-on and realize that ‘yes, I can make a positive contribution, whether it is big or small.’ This mindset will, in turn, get students more connected to the Ypsilanti community, as we are an integral part of it.”
With the assistance of the 2019 Ford C3 grant, Optimize will be hosting a Social Impact Fair to assist socially-focused organizations and recruit for new project teams. Then, through an eight-month Social Innovation Challenge, teams will design and test solutions for community issues in health, education, housing and workforce development.
A showcase event will allow community partners and students to exhibit their ideas and prototypes to an audience. Winning projects will receive up to $2,500 to fully execute their solutions.
Molly Linhares, Optimize Eastern’s vice president, believes that Optimize allows students to realize their potential.
“Someone is actually telling them that they can do something with their lives, not just a nine to five job,” Linhares said.
With the help of the Ford C3 grant, Linhares hopes that Optimize will be able to create a bigger impact.
“I hope that we can find more students to empower and find a way to reach out to them in a way we haven’t been able to before,” she said.
Tristan Shah, a student leader in Optimize Eastern’s Quasar project, has had an interest in starting small projects and turning them into businesses since he was 14.
“I wanted to combine my interests in programming and stocks to see real results,” Shah said.
Shah hopes that, with the help of this $25,000 grant, Optimize can expand its program.
“[I hope that] they can encourage more business development in younger age groups,” he said. “A lot of people think they have to wait until after they get a job or enter the workforce to take risks and make their ideas actually happen. With this program, I have learned you don’t have to be financially stable to start a project. You just have to work hard.”
To learn more about Optimize and its mission, visit Optimize’s website.