DETROIT — After 10 years working at the National Bank of Detroit, Eva Garza Dewaelsche felt it was time for a career change.
When considering her next professional opportunity, Dewaelsche said she was influenced by her desire to help others.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing direct service and work within the community,” Dewaelsche said. “I had a similar background of this type of work in college. Moreso, I knew I wanted to work with people who had barriers to obtaining their education who were underrepresented.”
Dewaelsche currently serves as the President and CEO of SER Metro-Detroit, a non-profit organization that provides Detroit residents with educational opportunities, job training, job placement programs and youth development initiatives.
Now as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Dewaelsche is being celebrated for her tireless efforts to provide people with the skills and opportunities they need to achieve self-sufficiency.
“We’re excited to celebrate Eva as a Game Changers honoree for her commitment to improving the quality of life for Detroit residents,” said Kevin Brown, director of community impact for Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. “Eva and her team at SER Metro-Detroit uphold a vital community resource, one that enhances the lives of thousands across the city every year.”
Dewaelsche, who was born in Detroit and is a graduate of Wayne State University, previously worked for Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development and also served the community as a Detroit Police Officer.
Dewaelsche said her personal and professional background shaped her into the person she is today.
“I come from a mostly Hispanic community,” Dewaelsche said. “That’s where I first got the interest in helping others, specifically those individuals.”
According to Dewaelsche, SER Metro-Detroit’s impact is far-reaching.
“We work with older youth by giving them a second chance to complete high school, get a job and acquire careers,” Dewaelsche said. “But it’s extremely difficult and requires a lot more in terms of support services, so the constant challenge is finding enough resources, because we impact so many people.”
One initiative that is very important, according to Dewaelsche, is SER Youth2Build Learning Academy (SYLA) East & Southwest. In partnership with Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), SYLA serves as an alternate high school for youth ages 16-21 that helps students obtain classroom instruction while learning a specific trade.
For Dewaelsche, watching SYLA students participate in DPSCD’s annual graduation ceremony is fulfilling.
“These kids enter our alternative high school after being told they will never graduate or get a diploma,” Dewaelsche said. “Then eight months pass and they have a diploma from us that is recognized by DPSCD. It’s very rewarding to see, because these kids were told they weren’t going to succeed, but they did.”
SER Metro-Detroit also organizes events throughout the year, such as trade readiness seminars and financial resource fairs.
“We also coordinate with other non-profit agencies in our community so we can provide even more resources,” Dewaelsche said. “We try to place people into jobs and internship programs because we want to enhance their careers.”
Dewaelsche believes when “you provide people with support, they will be successful.”
“People, when they realize this is their last chance, they really work hard,” Dewaelsche said. “If they are given an opportunity, have support and see the SER Metro-Detroit staff as a family, they can succeed.”