Detroit is a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem uniquely positioned to become a development and innovation hub. Among those leading the charge are the city’s ambitious youth, eager to turn their ideas into business opportunities. High school students especially are recognizing their potential to become entrepreneurs in the city. Many believe this path will lead them to great rewards and a better future. YouthTank Detroit provides a gateway for young entrepreneurs to make a mark in their industries.

YouthTank’s keystone program aims to blend business with social impact to help youth develop career-ready skills in tech and mobility. Through this initiative, participants also gain exposure, experience, and professional networks in the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

YouthTank Detroit offers young people unique, practical programming and encourages them to confront challenges head-on. The program helps develop the essential skills and vision needed to succeed.

YouthTank is focused on providing young people real-world experiences through action-based learning. As co-founder Holly Arida puts it, “We have them do it” so that they can “lean into their discomfort and triumph.” YouthTank ensures that young people have ample opportunities to express opinions, share creative ideas and develop skills that will position them for success.

YouthTank leverages the expertise of business leaders to coach young entrepreneurs on effective presentation skills, such as body language, storytelling, and overcoming stage inhibitions.

This experience, as per Arida, “provides them with practice for public presentations like the closing ceremony at Apple where interns pitched to an audience of over 150 people, including six Mobility experts.”

Additionally, YouthTank has successfully supported young entrepreneurs through its near-peer leadership model, were college students mentor high schoolers. This model has fostered an atmosphere of collaboration, mutual respect, and support. The relationships that blossom significantly impact the growth and development of both the mentors and mentees.

Youth collaborate and brainstorm ideas to solve challenges related to their work.

“Students from Detroit and Metro Detroit were part of our cross-cultural team. It’s not something we see very often,” said Arida. “They came together from some of the top universities in the state and the country, and they were invested in helping people, who were only two or three years younger than them, to get to the next level.” Many of the high school-level interns were recruited from the Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT) database. They were pre-selected for their interest in computer science, information systems, and automotive. Interns underwent a rigorous program requiring interviews, paperwork, and orientation meetings. Participants are paid for their internship, gain professional experience, and develop a sense of self-reliance and pride.

YouthTank Detroit became involved with Song Foundation after its founder, Holly Arida, saw Song Foundation Executive Director Khalilah Burt Gaston speak last spring at TechTown Detroit’s Detroit on the Move: Celebrating the Evolution of Black Mobility conference. Impressed with Khalilah’s speech, Holly reached out to Khalilah, and they began to learn about each other’s work.

Both organizations share a commitment to youth activism, leadership, tech, and entrepreneurship. During their discussion on youth mobility issues, they discovered an ironic challenge– lack of reliable transportation was a significant barrier for youth engagement in YouthTank’s mobility programs.

Many participants faced hurdles in attending programming due to transportation constraints. This challenge was addressed through a sponsorship from the Song Foundation, making transportation accessible for over 200 youth to attend YouthTank’s iOS mobility accelerator located downtown.

Groups of young people sharing their work and ideas directly with one another at their respective tables.

YouthTank is developing a three-year high school pipeline to prepare Black and Brown students for job opportunities in tech and entrepreneurship. YouthTank interns partnered with Google Code Next young leaders to organize Detroit’s first Youth Mobility Summit, which took take place March 16th, 2024, at Michigan Central HUB. This summit served as a platform for youth organizations from across Metro Detroit to discuss mobility issues and opportunities, showcase tech solutions, and engage with industry and policy leaders. 

This summer, YouthTank plans to provide micro-internships at mobility startup companies.  The Song Foundation recognizes YouthTank’s significant strides in preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs and looks forward to witnessing the accomplishments of the youth.

For those curious to learn more about YouthTank Detroit and its groundbreaking initiatives, visit their social media: FacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn. Also, you can check out their website.