Launched in: 2008
Application Timing: February - April
Ford Fund invites students to develop and submit ideas for innovative projects that address community needs—ranging from safety to workforce development to access to mobility, and more. Each year, up to 10 proposals are selected to receive a $25,000 grant to implement their project, allowing students to take an active role in making people’s lives better and helping their community become a more sustainable place to work and live.
2019 Ford College Community Challenge Winning Projects
Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Mich.
Optimize Eastern, a student-led organization at Eastern Michigan University (EMU), provides a setting for students to engage with Ypsilanti, Mich. businesses and nonprofits. Grant funding through the Ford College Community Challenge supported recruitment and the building of 12 core project teams. The largest portion of the grant went towards an eight-month workshop that utilizes design thinking strategies to help students identify community health, education, housing, and workforce development issues, as well as plan solutions for the challenges each team presented. The project will culminate with a public showcase displaying prototypes to the community, followed by a large conference for the city and EMU campus that encourages public support and engagement in the projects.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Ill.
The Illinois Enactus student group expanded the Grounds for Growth project that upcycles discarded coffee grounds and creates sustainably sourced soap and scrub products. Through the project, Restoration Urban Ministries manufactured 100% eco-friendly Grounds for Growth bar soaps with sustainable packaging by giving jobs to the people they serve, while the student team concentrated on public relations, marketing, business opportunities and operations. Students expanded soap sales beyond the Champaign-Urbana-Champaign, Illinois area through community events and online marketing.
Salt Lake Community College, Salt Lake City, Utah
The goal of the Salt Lake Community College Eats (SLCC Eats) program is 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. Student Leaders in Civic Engagement used the funding to help align and elevate the conversation of justice-oriented food systems while also establishing SLCC Eats pantries as the umbrella for food access, nutrition and financial planning. The project’s goal was to expand to six school campuses at SLCC through access to ready-to-eat meals that supplement the pantry’s grocery products.
Centenary University, Hackettstown, N.J.
The Greener Side of Bags project 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, wine and shopping totes were in advance of New Jersey’s ban on plastic bags. To elevate the project, business students worked with fashion students to open the shelter’s sewing room and provided eight sewing machines. While marketing skills were in full force to raise awareness of the reusable bags, the multi-function team created opportunities for adaptation of the bag with input from fashion students based on customer feedback.
Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan Public Transportation Safety Initiative, East Lansing, Mich.
Through the Public Transportation Safety Initiative, the Sustainable Spartans student organization lit the way for Michigan State University (MSU) students, helping them catch the Capital Area Transportation Authority bus safely. Poorly lighted stops were prohibitive to student use at night, as well as a source of aggravation when there was not enough light for a bus driver to see people at a stop. Since incoming freshmen are not permitted to have vehicles on campus, the bus is important for students who need to reach night classes, workshops, employment and recreational activities. Both engineering and design students worked on the project making parts for the fixtures and environmental science students contributed knowledge for the renewable energy source.
Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
The 2019 SHAPE for Women (Sanitation, Health, Awareness, Planning and Education for Women Program) project was designed to be accessible to more than 40,000 women in the community. The sanitation element included the production of low-cost, reusable menstrual pads while the health aspect established 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 addresses issues surrounding women’s resistance to use government hospitals due to years of systematic discrimination against indigenous people.
University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dearborn, Mich.
PolliNation builds “insect hotels” for our most important pollinating agents which account for the pollination of 95% of plant species. University of Michigan-Dearborn environmental science, environmental studies and engineering students built the insect hotels and engaged the local community through two public workshops. As many as 15 Dearborn Public Schools will receive a hotel and nearly 180 hotels can be placed throughout the city of Dearborn.
Wayne State University, Detroit
Auntie Na’s student organization at the Wayne State University School of Medicine continues to support the community healthcare work started by Mrs. Sonya Brown, “Auntie Na.” Grant funding through the Ford College Community Challenge helped transform Nardin Park into a “healthy oasis” with a self-sustainable system that provides not only food security but also promotes healthy eating. The students also plan to expand the Healthy Detroit Corner Store Program to two additional locations and use a new urban garden as a teaching tool.
Wayne State University, Detroit
Sustainable Urban Landscape Collaborative is led by Detroit Biodiversity Network students at Wayne State University (WSU). The goal of the collaborative was to help alleviate the impact of flooded basements common in many Metro Detroit neighborhoods. Flooded basements bring with them chronic and infectious diseases, especially among children and seniors, and this project utilized WSU’s existing Detroit hydrology research to incorporate green stormwater infrastructure. Students also grew native Michigan plant species for the community and aided with the installation. Also, the project included a new community component to increase awareness and participation of the current program.
College for Creative Studies, Detroit
P.O.S.T (Public Opportunity Support Terminal) aims to provide users with community benefits such as access and information to 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 will be able to find information on special events happening in the community.