A move to Detroit meant a better life for Sherra Bennett (’13, B.A.) and her family—her parents and sister are all educators who found work in the city. Over time, though, she watched as the city she loved as a kid continue to decline.
“I want to see Detroit as I saw it as a little girl,” she said, “as a place for opportunity and prosperity.”
That’s why Bennett founded S.T.A.R.R. Movement—Standing Together, Agreeing, Representing Revolution—an organization dedicated to youth leadership development and local civic service engagement.
The organization’s first project, S.T.A.R.R. Leaders, launches this January. The goal? Challenge Detroit youth to actively participate in the revitalization of their neighborhoods.
S.T.A.R.R. Leaders will meet two Saturdays a month on UM-Dearborn’s campus. Guest speakers will cover topics like community organizing, urban renewal, social justice and advocacy. Then, students will head out into the community to work on service projects—removing blight, cleaning up neighborhoods around schools and volunteering in soup kitchens are on the schedule.
“Young people have such a spark,” Bennett said. “I don’t want to miss the opportunity to light that spark. I want to pour into them and mold them and challenge them to change their communities.”
In many ways, she sees her work as an opportunity to pay it forward. Bennett has been on the receiving end of mentorship, especially during her time at UM-Dearborn.
“UM-Dearborn functions as a community. I can’t talk about S.T.A.R.R. Movement without talking about the university,” Bennett said. “I’m so grateful for Amy Karaban Finley’s mentorship and leadership and for the ‘community of higher education’ that Vice Chancellor [Stanley] Henderson always talks about.”
Bennett first dreamed up the idea for S.T.A.R.R. Movement as her vision project for the university’s Blueprints Leadership Program, led by Karaban Finley.
“Sherra is committed to making change for young people in the community she loves, Detroit. I’m not surprised that her inspired vision has captivated the hearts of many friends and funders,” said Karaban Finley, assistant director for CIViC engagement. “I couldn’t be prouder of her for taking this idea from vision to reality.”
Bennett’s work on S.T.A.R.R. Movement has started to gain national traction. In April, she won the Summit Award and Viewer’s Choice Award at Mobilize.org’s Detroit Summit. And last month she was named Ashoka U’s Changemaker of the Week.
The recognition drives Bennett to continue to build the program and dream about the future, saying, “My impact is only as large as my vision.”