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Summer at Kresge: Intern sara faraj works on fostering more inclusive social systems

American Cities

Alaya Freeman

Alaya Freeman

Growing up in Dearborn, Michigan, sara faraj understands the significance of community development. Immersed in a thriving and cultured environment reminiscent of her own heritage, she envisions extending such experiences to others.

As a summer graduate intern with The Kresge Foundation’s American Cities Program, faraj is working with the team on reviewing grants, researching what an equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem looks like, and developing a theory of change framework and toolkit for inclusive place-based economic and community development. This work is central to helping the program cultivate more opportunities and access to resources that affect someone’s quality of life and bridging the gaps for those who have been excluded.

“I’m passionate about cultivating healthy community conditions in urban landscapes for people to thrive, more specifically, marginalized populations. Also, understanding how to get funding to those groups and ensuring they have access to healthy food and other necessities, such as affordable housing. The Foundation’s mission, which aligns with these efforts, is what led me to join.”

Before joining Kresge, faraj served as a research assistant at the University of Michigan, working on designing more sustainable and inclusive food systems. She also brings prior experience as a mayoral fellow with the City of Detroit and a land use and sustainability support specialist with the non-profit Detroit Future City.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to bring awareness to systemic issues that impact people’s daily lives and the resident-led strategies that address them. For example, in a previous research project, I explored progressive procurement practices and made recommendations for institutional change. I am looking forward to being able to have that opportunity again.”

“My favorite thing about Kresge is the people who are asking important questions to drive positive change forward. Everyone on my team is clearly passionate about their work. It’s inspiring to be around people who work to address the issues that I hope to address in my career. The work aligns with what I want to do.”

She hopes that her work will catalyze equitable place-based community development initiatives. She also hopes her work in assisting and shaping strategies will foster Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) small business ecosystem growth and generate more inclusive environments based on community needs.

Once she completes her time at Kresge, she plans to complete her Master of Urban and Regional Planning at The University of Michigan and continue her work on fostering more inclusive and equitable urban places.

In addition to her work and academic studies, she also has her own small business, Planning Participation, that aims to amplify mission-oriented organizations and bring awareness to community-led initiatives catalyzing needed transformation.