Innovation in Detroit (and Kenya!)

July 29, 2019

In May, Dow in partnership with international development charity WE, announced the winners of the 2018 – 2019 WE Are Innovators Challenge. Twenty-eight student winners and their teachers were awarded the opportunity to go on a culturally immersive ME to WE service-learning trip to Kenya.

Among them is Tionna Thompson, 15, the first student at SAY Play to enter the annual challenge and submit a sustainability project proposing that vacated homes in Detroit be turned into neighborhood greenhouses. WE Are Innovators Challenge gives students the opportunity to identify, innovate and develop sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.

Tionna’s project proposes converting abandoned homes in Detroit into neighborhood greenhouses, which would then supply fresh produce and increase greenery for local communities to improve health outcomes and reduce food waste.

“I love my city and the things we are capable of doing.”

– Tionna

Tionna spent three weeks last fall working exclusively to hone her idea and complete the proposal at the Center, and gave up time on SAY Play activities she enjoys, like the Notes4Notes studio, to focus on her idea.

The service learning trip, which took place at the end of June into July, was an opportunity to have hands-on volunteer experience with the communities of Maasai. She was accompanied by Dana Davidson, Co-Executive Director of SAY Play.

Follow their journey with these photos at