These 6 Detroiters will share stories about their neighborhoods as Model D community correspondents

Six Detroiters will soon be getting an opportunity to report on their own neighborhoods for Model D through a special project called the Community Correspondents Program. The program, which is a part of a larger initiative through Issue Media Group (Model D's parent company), provides opportunities for local residents to be trained in the basics of journalism. 

As local media outlets leave communities, the journalists who worked for them often find other careers and jobs. Community correspondents help fill some of those roles, and more importantly connect engaged citizens by amplifying their voices as they cover news in their communities through solutions-oriented journalism. Participants are compensated for attending Community Correspondents Program workshops and receive additional mentorship from a professional journalist. To ensure that participants have the proper tools they need to do their correspondent work, each of them has received a new laptop. They will also be paid for each of their articles published in Model D at the same rate paid to professional journalists. Similar programs have taken place with other IMG publications in cities like Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Cleveland, and Memphis.

Training for the Detroit program, which kicked off earlier this month, is being overseen by Biba Adams, a veteran Detroit journalist and frequent Model D contributor whose work has appeared in publications like The Detroit Metro Times, The Grio, and Ebony Magazine.
"The opportunity to get people who work in community spaces or who are active in their neighborhoods telling more stories is the goal," she says. "I'm grateful for being part of it." 

The six participants in the Community Correspondents program were selected last month from a pool of applicants. They are currently engaged in training, which began Oct. 10 and will run through Oct. 31. Adams is supervising the classes, which are being conducted online and cover topics like journalistic ethics, storytelling, and solutions-oriented reporting. In November, the new community correspondents will be brushing up on the skills they've learned with mentors. After that, they will start publishing articles on Model D later this year or early next year. 

"It's a great program," says Adams. "I'd love for people to stay tuned and take advantage of programs like this when they hear about them, so we can all be a part of telling authentic stories."

Meet Model D's Community Correspondents

Edythe Ford

Edythe Ford has dedicated her life to being a community advocate. She's a graduate of Finney High School and Wayne State University. Her experience also includes many years of activism and service.Edythe Ford

Ford's start in advocacy came at a young age, when she joined the civil rights movement at just 5 years old. Later she grew into the role of a community organizer, bringing together local residents for efforts like helping elderly neighbors and keeping tabs on crime.

Ford currently serves as Director of Community Engagement with Mack Avenue Community Church (MACC) Development Corporation, where she brings local officials, business communities, and residents together to work for change on issues like poverty and blight.

One of her proudest accomplishments is leading an initiative to assist homeowners and renters in the 48214 ZIP code. Under her leadership, MACC Development Corporation's team delivered information and resources to more than 1,600 local residents to assist them with issues like foreclosure and eviction.
"Service is being present when others call you to lead and be their voice for change," says Ford. "I believe delivering change block-by-block is how we can restore our communities and build a better Michigan."

Elizabeth Garrett
Elizabeth Garrett

Elizabeth Garrett went to Renaissance High School and graduated from Hunter College with a degree in English Literature. She loves theatre, music, and food. Garrett lives in Hamtramck most of the year and spends winters in Puerto Rico. Currently, she is working on a graphic novel about Hurricane Maria. 

Tyrone Mitchell, Jr.

Tyrone Mitchell, Jr. is a native of Wayne and a graduate of Ferris State University. Tyrone Mitchell, Jr.Professionally, he's worked in the public service field since 2003. Mitchell is also an active member of Juneteenth Michigan Chapter, a nonprofit that raises awareness about the Juneteenth holiday, and the founder of Watch Detroit, a video platform that showcases local musicians and artists. 

He and his family are relatively recent transplants to Detroit, having relocated from Allen Park to the city's Islandview neighborhood in 2018. Their move came after a two-year effort to renovate the home where they now live.

"The project was both financially and emotionally taxing, but we’re happy with the outcome and grateful to be a part of the community," he says. "We understand firsthand the importance of getting resource information to the community, having benefited from City of Detroit home programs and neighborhood associations."

Mitchell enjoys the diversity of Islandview and is excited to stories about the neighborhood and the people who live there with Model D readers.  

Marcyl Pesti

There are many ways to describe Marcyl Pesti. She's a native Detroiter, who now lives on the city's east side near Mack Avenue and Bewick Street. She's a wife, mother to two boys, and stepmother to two Marcyl Pestidaughters. And she's also a U.S. Army veteran, who spent a decade as a military administrative assistant. 

Pesti enlisted in the military in 2003, after graduating high school at Redford. During her time in the army, she served three tours overseas, including one combat tour to Kuwait, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

"Each command was a new learning opportunity," she says. "There were trials and tribulations, but most of all experience with good and evil. Every duty station had a life lesson to be taught."

While the army vet has traveled all over the world, she jokes that she still needs a GPS to navigate the city. As for her interests, she enjoys reading, researching, traveling, and food. When it comes to new experiences, her philosophy is: "how do you know you don't like it, if you never tried." Pesti also doesn't mind admitting she can be a little eccentric.

"I've always been an outspoken and odd individual," she says. "I enjoy listening to rock music while sipping a chai tea with honey and enjoying the gentle fall breeze. I like to think of myself as a modern-day millennial Black hippie."

Naeema Farooqui 

After graduating from nursing school at Miami Dade College in Florida in 2015, Naeema Farooqui  jammed all her worldly goods into her champagne-colored Chrysler Sebring and set off on a four-day solo adventure northwards, eventually landing in the Motor City. 

Although she was battered by Floridian rainstorms and nagged with anxiety about hitting a woodland creature and being thrown into a ditch somewhere in Georgia, she persevered. The native Canadian had originally discovered Detroit's rough charm and mystery 15 years prior during a trip from her hometown of Toronto. At the time, Farooqui  found the city's mix of grit, perseverance, and raw creativity enticing and continued to visit over the years. Having finally earned her nursing degree, she was confronted with the opportunity to settle anywhere in the continental US. Ultimately she realized there was only one option: Detroit.

Today, Naeema Farooqui  is an emergency nurse, and a proud resident of North Rosedale Park.

Mariela Brook Trejo

Mariela Brook Trejo is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants. A native of Kentucky, she grew up in Southwest Detroit, the Mariela Brook Trejoplace she has called home for the last 20-plus years. Right now, Trejo is attending school at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, pursuing a degree in communications and a minor in Human Resources. When she graduates in December, she will be a first-generation college graduate.

Beyond her studies, Trejo is also the proud mother to her 2-year-old son, Lionel. The Southwest Detroiter also admires the hard work and sacrifices her parents have made and works hard to be a voice for the immigrant community. As a woman and person of color, Brook Trejo is passionate about and actively fights for social justice for marginalized communities.
For the past seven years, Trejo has been involved with the Urban Neighborhood Initiatives community development organization as both an employee and program participant. She currently serves as community communications coordinator for the nonprofit.

This program is a part of the Resilient Neighborhoods series, which is currently being funded by Kresge Foundation.

Read more articles by David Sands.

David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He's covered the news for Huffington Post Detroit as an assistant editor and worked as a staff writer for the transportation news site Mode Shift. Follow him on Twitter @dsandsdetroit.
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