Detroit Youth Choir Member, Brother Rice Star Athlete Among PuLSE 2020 Junior Fellows Class

They come from different and diverse ethnic backgrounds. Each of them has a strong academic foundation and are intellectually curious. But the tie that binds all of them is their commitment to addressing the issue of poverty and inequality. And what stands out the most as a distinguishing factor from many of their peers is their genuine empathy and concern for those who are underprivileged in society. 

The 2020 class of The PuLSE Institute’s prestigious Junior Fellows Program is made up of students who are determined to be the anti-poverty champions of the future. Drawn from Detroit, the region of southeast Michigan and around the country, the high school students who have been accepted to the leadership fellowship at the Institute, will spend the next year learning about the rudiments and attributes of leadership as well as participate in situational leadership exercises. The students are the second batch of the program which began in 2018.

The students through a series of online workshops and seminars will study the art of effective public speaking, how to inspire confidence, develop authoritative presentations, nurture effective listening skills, team building, inclusive input and how to shape public opinion. 

Renowned journalist and author Bankole Thompson, the editor-in-chief of The PuLSE Institute and chair of the Academy of Fellows, is the lead instructor for the Junior Fellows Program. The fellowship is a rigorous and competitive program, and fellows are selected based on a demonstrated commitment and strong interest in inequality issues.

The PuLSE Institute actively advocates for anti-poverty and economic equality policies to shape the society we want to inhabit, both in our present and in the future. We would be unable to do this if we did not build a critical pipeline of young leaders, who likewise share a conviction for equality and will carry forward an anti-poverty philosophy in diverse industries throughout their careers,” said Attorney Tina M. Patterson, president of The PuLSE Institute. “They have demonstrated sincere passion and commitment to underserved populations through a range of volunteer work in homeless shelters and nursing homes, in addition to being talented student athletes, musicians, and top academic scholars.” 

Caria Taylor of Cass Tech High School in Detroit

Patterson added, “Coupled with their phenomenal aspirations to diversify critical fields such as science, technology, and medicine, The PuLSE Institute is honored to welcome this second cohort to the Junior Fellows Program, and are confident these young leaders will shape our future toward an equitable society for the benefit of humanity.

Meet some of the fellows: 

Caria Taylor, an honor roll senior at Detroit’s Cass Technical High School is a member of the world renowned Detroit Youth Choir, 1st runner up on the 2019 season of America’s Got Talent and is currently the youngest to ever receive the keys to the City of Detroit. She has been deeply involved in many social justice causes feeding the homeless and participating in several anti-violence rallies as well as other philanthropic efforts. Caria is also a member of the University of Michigan’s Doctors of Tomorrow and wants to become a medical doctor and vows to “always be a leader and servant of the disenfranchised.”

Udodi Onwuzurike, is a senior at Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He has been a 4.0 student since his freshman year of high school. Udodi, the 2020 West Coast AAU Junior Olympic 100m and 200m champion is among the youngest promising athletes in the nation, who has already been accepted to Stanford University next fall where he will join the University’s men’s program while studying engineering. But the Brother Rice athlete also has a penchant for social justice issues and wants to use the platform that sports offers to champion social change. 

“What I like most about The PuLSE Institute Junior Fellows Program is that it is a platform for me to discuss social issues that affect my life on a day to day basis,” Udodi said. “I am able to have conversations with others who share the same interests, where we find solutions to socioeconomic issues.” 

Sophia Pedersoli of San Ramon School District in Carlifornia

For Sophia Pedersoli of San Ramon School District in California, the fellowship is in line with her passion. For example, she cited weekly visits to an orphanage while living in India that helped shaped her worldview and the need to have empathy and awareness about the crisis of poverty facing many children around the globe. To meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, Pedersoli, organized a fundraiser for underserved women and children as well as for the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries. With interest in space and science, she’s taken part in competitions including a research experiment for a launch on NASA sounding rocket in 2019. 

For a complete list of the class of 2020 visit the Junior Fellows page.  For information about how to enroll in the program contact Bankole Thompson at

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