Champions for Change program aims to cultivate Washtenaw County's leaders of color and their allies

A new program launched by the Ann Arbor nonprofit NEW aims to identify, cultivate, and invest in Washtenaw County's leaders of color – and to develop allies for them.


The Champions for Change program grew out of NEW staff's interest in addressing issues of racial inequity in the county.


"There are years of research that shows how racial inequality has caused disparity in our community and we’ve been seeking to understand that research. One of the things that stands out is that there is a big gap in racial leadership," says Will Jones, NEW’s relationship manager. "Champions for Change represents our efforts at addressing that gap, systematically and county-wide."


The program has two tracks: the Leaders of Color Fellowship (LOC) and Allies Academy.


Specifically designed for leaders of color, LOC is a dynamic six-month course that will expand and deepen participants’ leadership skills through projects, networking, and personal meetings.


"What’s unique about Leaders of Color is that it’s for people from all backgrounds and levels of experience. You don’t to be out in the limelight or well-known in the community. You could be a new volunteer leader somewhere or running a very small business you just started. It’s for everyone who can demonstrate that they have been a leader in some way," Jones says.


Running concurrently with LOC, Allies Academy is geared to assist white leaders who wish to advance equity within their companies and institutions.


"This second program is perfect for mid-level or senior people who want to bring racial awareness to their team and are believers of the importance of social justice in Washtenaw," Jones says.


Jones says NEW has received 15 applications for the program so far and it will accept up to 18 members for the program's initial cohort. Applications for both Champions for Change programs are being accepted until July 12. More information is available here.

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at
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