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I'm Going to Change the World by Connecting Detroit Youth to Jobs, Resources and a Future

Deja Anderson

  • Scholarships:
    Arthur Johnson Endowed Scholarship

One day the communities of Detroit will have all the resources they need to advance their lives and the lives of their children, all thanks to a nonprofit founded and run by Deja Anderson. Deja will trace a big part of her success back to the U-M School of Social Work and her Arthur Johnson Endowed Scholarship, established by Richard and Susan Rogel to honor the former president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP. The Scholarship goes to a student interested in practicing social work in Detroit.

But Deja Anderson is more than just “interested in” Detroit. Deja Anderson is Detroit.

“Born and raised in Detroit,” she says with a big smile. “I graduated from Renaissance High School, and my parents have lived in the same house, in the Six Mile and Greenfield area, for sixteen years. I’ve seen our neighborhood go from being family-oriented to people struggling to stay in their homes. Resources are needed to provide residents with quality education, adequate living conditions and better job opportunities.” Deja’s wish to be part of the solution was shaped by her mother, grandmother and aunt, who are, respectively, a registered nurse, a professor of nursing, and a rehabilitation counselor. Deja began helping others as an intern case manager for Midnight Golf, a Wayne County–based program that teaches young people life skills through the game of golf. “I loved working with Detroit youth,” Deja says. “I helped them find jobs and encouraged them toward a better way of living.”

Deja came to U-M as an undergrad in 2012. Having loved case management, she found the School of Social Work’s minor in Community Action and Social Change (CASC) a perfect fit (her major was Psychology). “CASC inspired me to apply to the School of Social Work for my MSW,” she says, “and to create change in a community I’m passionate about.

I love hearing perspectives from others. I enjoy analyzing how policies and procedures affect communities and how we as social workers can be advocates.

“I love Detroit—people on the move, always doing things, no matter what the statistics say—but Detroit youth are struggling due to failing schools. I want to use my skill set as a social worker with students, families and teachers that need help and resources.” With a field placement in Detroit, Deja is already at work. She’s loving her classes, too. “I enjoy being able to interact with theories and concepts that move social work forward,” she says. “I love hearing perspectives from others. I enjoy analyzing how policies and procedures affect communities and how we as social workers can be advocates.”

The Arthur Johnson Endowed Scholarship has been critical to Deja’s trajectory. “I was looking at a huge loan,” she recalls. “I had to find scholarships. I searched online, and the Johnson Scholarship was the first one I found.” The Scholarship is given based on the personal statement in a candidate’s application, and of course Deja’s statement was about Arthur Johnson’s favorite city!

Deja has a message for those thinking of establishing scholarships. “When you create a Social Work scholarship,” she says, “you help someone make a difference in the lives of others. You invest in a social work student, and they go change the world, without the worry of having to pay back a loan. Thanks to my scholarship, I’m free to focus on the vision I had when I applied here: providing people with the hope and the resources to build better lives.”

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