Beeta Ansari

Beeta is Ashoka U’s Exchange Director, the world’s largest global convening for social entrepreneurship education.

Changemaker of the Week: Sherra Bennett

Sherra Bennett, a recent graduate of University of Michigan Dearborn, describes her work founding S.T.A.R.R. Movement, an organization committed to developing projects that address social justice issues, encourage community engagement, leadership development, and educational advancement.

Sherra is being featured as part of Ashoka U’s “Changemaker of the Week” series, which highlights extraordinary student changemakers in college and graduate programs around the world. Check the Ashoka U Blog each week for a story of a new Changemaker of the Week!

What is your project / organization?

My organization is S.T.A.R.R. Movement, which stands for “Standing Together Agreeing Representing Revolution.” S.T.A.R.R. Movement is an organization that develops programs/projects to address social justice issues, encourage community engagement, leadership development and educational advancement.

The premiere project from S.T.A.R.R. Movement is S.T.A.R.R. Leaders, a leadership development program for young people in the Metro Detroit area that want to be the change they wish to see in their communities. S.T.A.R.R. Leaders are exposed to social change and develop methods for how they can best create social change in Detroit. S.T.A.R.R. Leaders organize and advocate in Detroit communities, building neighborhood teams that complete community projects and work to help build a better Detroit.

In addition to the work they perform in Detroit, S.T.A.R.R. leaders are given professional development and educational advancement opportunities.

How did you decide to start it or get involved?

My family relocated to Detroit when I was still in elementary school and at the time, Detroit represented economic prosperity and a better future for my family. As I continued to grow up as a teenager and young adult in Detroit, I was well aware of the issues that faced the city. As a young adult it was important to me that I gave back to the city that afforded my family and myself with limitless opportunities. During college I participated in numerous volunteer service projects and was selected to participate in the Blueprints Leadership Program on my campus (University of Michigan – Dearborn). In Blueprints I was further exposed to methods of social change and given the guided structure to develop a social change vision project. During Blueprints I developed S.T.A.R.R. Movement, because I wanted to not only help Detroit, but also help other young people realize that they can make a difference and create change that affects their communities and lives.

How has being a college student changed the way you act as a changemaker?

The university I attended offered numerous civic engagement and leadership development opportunities for their students to lead, act and engage. In college I was able to serve as a Site Leader, working with my peers facilitating volunteer service projects around social issues in Detroit and Chicago. These opportunities allowed me space to truly grow and develop as a leader. Through these experiences I became confident in my leadership abilities and empowered to work to create change.

What’s the best part of being a changemaker?

The best part of being a changemaker is being able to empower others and play a role in the creation of change. My greatest desire is to be able to help people and know that every obstacle I faced and overcame was not in vain. I grew up in Detroit and was given many opportunities and I want to make sure I spend my life paying it forward.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give anyone thinking about becoming a student changemaker?

One piece of advice I’d give anyone thinking about becoming a student changemaker is to DO IT! Realize that the only obstacle stopping you is yourself! Don’t be afraid to fail! The most important piece of advice would be to be open to the process. This journey won’t be perfect or easy, but it will be worth it! START NOW.

How has your college / university or any particular programs helped you along the way?

My University (University of Michigan Dearborn) functions as an educational community that offers endless leadership development opportunities and support. UM-D gave me the opportunity to participate in the Blueprints Leadership Program, which allowed me the opportunity to develop my vision project S.T.A.R.R. Movement. The Blueprints Leadership Program also gave me an amazing professional mentor who forwarded me the opportunity to participate in Mobilize.org’s College to Career Pathways Summit. After competing I was selected as the 1st place Mobilize.org College to Career Pathways Summit winner and awarded funds and fellowship support for my venture. I’m able to facilitate S.T.A.R.R. Movement because of the University of Michigan Dearborn’s Blueprints Leadership Program and Mobilize.org.

More information about Sherra will be featured on social media this week, so make sure to like Ashoka U on Twitter and Facebook! Check out Ashoka U’s blog each week to see new stories of phenomenal student changemakers making a difference in the world.