We're starting a new Detroit 2020 segment where we showcase the changemakers in metro Detroit. This time, we're focusing on a woman who came from tough beginnings and is now using those hard knocks to transform the lives of others through the Downtown Detroit Partnership Ambassadors Program.
Racheal Allen grew up on the rugged east side of Detroit on Field Street. Living with her mom and sister, they were evicted.
"I really understand what it means to struggle in the city," Allen told 7 Action News' Carolyn Clifford. "I went to 10 different schools in 12 years and was a teen mom."
Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Allen worked three times as hard to overcome what happened.
"Someone gave me a chance at 14 with my first job, and at 17, (with) a scholarship to Marygrove College," she said.
Two years ago, Allen became the operations manager for the Downtown Detroit Partnership Ambassador Program, and she relates to those that she hires.
"Working two jobs, on welfare, on food stamps," Allen said. "I share that now, not from a place of shame, but to tell my ambassadors that I know what it's like to have a bridge card and have that card taken away. How are you going to feed your family?"
Nearly 100 people in green and yellow vests who clean streets, greet visitors and give directions represent the very best of Detroit, and they are proud to show it off. They're out there, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and happy to have an impact on the city.
There are at least 100 similar ambassador programs across the nation, but Detroit has the biggest and most successful. When people visit the Motor City, they leave with a much different impression.
"I still get emails from people who could not believe how clean our city was," Allen said. "How friendly our ambassadors were, and just how different from the image the media portrays sometimes."
If you want to see a difference in your community, be a Detroit 2020 changemaker like Racheal Allen.