EMU awarded $25,000 grant in highly-competitive 2019 Ford College Community Challenge program

Written by: Morgan Mark

YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan University (EMU) has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Ford Motor Company Fund (Ford Fund) through its Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3), an innovative grant-making program designed to inspire student teams to develop creative community-building projects addressing local needs around the theme Making Lives Better. The grant will support EMU’s Optimize Eastern (Optimize) project.

Through education, connection, and empowerment, Optimize provides a space for students to engage with the community while working to solve local challenges. Students have the opportunity to be a change-maker in Ypsilanti by forming project teams and working together to directly facilitate changes in social mobility, education, and health.

“It is an honor to be selected as a winner of the Ford College Community Challenge” said Tiarra Stallings, an EMU student and treasurer and social media strategist of Optimize Eastern. “Ypsilanti is an under-resourced community in great need of innovative aid, and this grant will help Optimize continue providing a crucial platform for students to create inventive projects that simultaneously propel the City of Ypsilanti and student careers.”

Optimize recently completed its first year and was able to support 5 projects, which involved 18 students. With the help of the 2019 Ford C3 grant, Optimize will host a Social Impact Fair to support local socially-focused organizations and recruit for new project teams. Then, throughout an 8-month Social Innovation Challenge, project teams will design and prototype solutions for identified community issues in health, education, housing and workforce development. A Showcase event will allow community partners and students to come together to exhibit their ideas and initial prototypes to an audience. The winning projects will receive up to $2,500 in order to fully implement their solutions.

In its 12th year, Ford C3 awards up to 10 grants throughout the country as part of the prestigious and highly selective program. Winning student proposals must consider, in a unique way, an identified community need, tied to one or more of three broad categories: driving social mobility, changing the way people move through smart mobility or building sustainable communities.  Projects must also address pressing community issues in a tangible way, involve students in a significant leadership role and include a community-based partner.

“Education and community engagement are important cornerstones of Ford Fund’s mission to strengthen communities and make people’s lives better,” said Farah Harb, global education analyst, Ford Fund. “The students participating in this unique program will learn what leadership is all about, as they develop essential skills to help their community continue moving forward in the future.”

Ford C3 grants are awarded by Ford Fund to the winning colleges and universities following consultations with a proposal review team made up of representatives from across Ford Motor Company. Ford C3 grants are designed to launch and sustain projects through the first year of implementation. Projects will be supported by university and local resources in the years that follow. 

Ford C3 is a nationally-focused educational initiative of Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company. More details about the program and previous winners can be found at https://www.fordblueovalnetwork.org/ford-college-community-challenge.

To learn more about Optimize, visit the Optimize website.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University’s Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University’s website.

About Ford Motor Company Fund

As the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, Ford Fund’s mission is to strengthen communities and help make people’s lives better. Working with dealers and nonprofit partners in 63 countries, Ford Fund provides access to opportunities and resources that help people reach their full potential. Since 1949, Ford Fund has invested more than $2 billion in programs that support education, promote safe driving, enrich community life and encourage employee volunteering. For more information, visit www.fordfund.org or join us at @FordFund on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Ford College Community Challenge

Through the Ford College Community Challenge, Ford Motor Company Fund aims to support colleges and universities as they work with students to design and develop tangible community projects that address critical local needs in new ways, with a focus on helping the community become a more sustainable place to work and live.

PHOTO: Optimize Core Team—From Left to Right: Chloe Spencer, Tiarra Stallings, Molly Linhares, Kristen Klochko, Mohammad Aggour, Mohamed Said