Junior Fellows

The Institute strongly believes in investing in the leadership of the future. This is why every fall the Institute invites high school students from around the region as Junior Fellows of the distinguished Academy of Fellows chaired by renowned journalist and author Bankole Thompson, the editor-in-chief of the Institute. The fellowship is a rigorous and competitive program, and fellows are selected based on a demonstrated commitment and strong interest in inequality issues.

Through the Junior Fellows Program, followers of The PuLSE Institute will experience the youth’s take on the issue of poverty and their aspirations to combat its effect in their communities to lead to a more equitable and better life for all.

The junior fellowship has three tiers.

1. Leadership Appreciation

This comprises workshops and seminars aimed at cultivating their empathy and compassion. The engaging workshops and seminars will present empathy and compassion as essential attributes of leadership in a society like ours where many are challenged by poverty and inequities.

2. Leadership Challenge

Junior fellows are grouped in threes and asked to conceive and implement special hands-on projects in the community that address poverty and inequity. By working in groups to address specific socio-economic problems, they develop team building skills and critical thinking. At the end of the project, each group will discuss their experiences in a column that will be published on the Institute’s website.

Areas of interest include:

Feeding women and children in homeless shelters

Tutoring kids in homeless shelters

Sharing relevant skills with the jobless – like computer literacy, sewing and culinary arts

Liaising with local banks to organize financial literacy classes

Food distribution to indigent homes

3. Leadership Spooring

This tier involves direct exposure to accomplished professionals and notable business, civic and political leaders. The idea is to inspire the junior fellows to envisage and resolutely pursue futures that will make a difference for the poor. The Institute takes great pride in developing the anti-poverty champions of tomorrow in the fight against inequality and exposing our youth to rich and unique opportunities that will support their endeavors as leaders of the future. This fellowship begins Oct. 24, 2018 and ends Sept. 25, 2019 with a college admission fair involving different colleges and universities.

2020-2021 Junior Fellows

Caria Taylor

Caria Taylor is an honor roll senior at Cass Technical High School in Detroit. She has always had a passion for serving since singing as a young child in the Triumph Church Youth Choir and being on the Youth usher board. Through her church, schools, and other community organizations, she has fed the homeless at My Brother’s Keeper and Coalition on Temporary Shelters (COTS), assisted with holiday giving, stop the violence rallies, and many other philanthropic efforts.

Caria has always been inspired to be a voice of change even since travelling in middle school with the MLK Task Force of Southfield, MI to various HBCUs and areas in the south while learning of Black American history. She is a member of the Cass Tech and Capturing Belief photography clubs and has recently taken up civil rights photojournalism, photographing moments of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Caria is also a member of the University of Michigan’s Doctors of Tomorrow program and a proud member of the world renowned Detroit Youth Choir, 1st runner up on the 2019 season of America’s Got Talent and currently the youngest to ever receive the keys to the city of Detroit. She aspires to become a doctor and vows to always be a leader and servant of the disenfranchised. She is serving as a Junior Fellow at The PuLSE Institute for 2020-2021.

Udodi Onwuzurike

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 plays varsity soccer in the fall, and is a part of DECA, Medical Club, Warrior Support Group, BEAM&R, Jazz Band, and Pep Band. Udodi has been accepted to Stanford University where he will begin classes in the fall of 2021. He plans to major in business and engineering.

Udodi also has a strong passion for track and field and has many accolades to show for his tenacity and work ethic. At the 2020 AAU West Coast Junior Olympic Games in Las Vegas, he finished in first place in the 200-meter, finishing with a 21.12 — a personal best — later finishing in first place in the 100-meter with a personal best 10.60.

Coming out of his latest meeting as the No 1-ranked 200-meter high school runner in the country, Onwuzurike is expected, by his coach, to be one of the top runners in the country during his senior season. Udodi feels that sports help to bring together different communities and can be a bridge to heal racial divides. He is passionate about social issues and wants to use the platform that sports offers to create social change. He is serving as a Junior Fellow at The PuLSE Institute for 2020-2021.

Sophia Pedersoli

Sophia Pedersoli from a young age traveled with her family to many countries and cherishes her experiences and interactions with people from different places with different cultures and languages as well as practicing different religions. While living in India with her expat parents, weekly visits to a rural orphanage at the age of four, helped instill empathy and awareness for poor living and health conditions that is unfortunately the norm for many children.  

At an early age, Sophia became interested in studying the root causes of health disparities among people throughout the world.  These diverse exposures led Sophia to always look for ways to give back.  Whether it’s distributing food, shoes, self-care kits, helping to teach at Space Camp, volunteering at her local library or reading to nursing home residents, Sophia finds ways to help within her community.  Her passions for space, science, and swimming have guided her to many leadership positions such as being a member of the Gold Key Club, a second place winner at the San Ramon School District speech competition, and conducting a research experiment leading to its launch on a NASA sounding rocket in 2019. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sophia channeled her love for the water to create a successful July 4th solo swim-a-thon fundraiser for underserved women and children. She swam six miles over a three-hour time span to raise funds and awareness for the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries. Sophia is honored to continue serving the community as a Junior Fellow at The PuLSE Institute for 2020-2021.

Marie Taylor

Marie Taylor is a junior at Cass Technical High School in Detroit who always had a passion for science. Because of her passion for space related science and physics, she plans to go to college and become an aerospace engineer. In her freshman year, she volunteered as a teacher’s assistant at a public school where she helped tutor and organize activities for the students and was a member of the BuildOn club, which allowed her to participate in a myriad of different community service events. Since her fifth grade year, she has been an artist and a viola player in her school’s orchestra where they provided free performances for the Detroit community. As an artist and musician, she enjoys the arts because it’s a language that everyone understands and it can bring different people together.

She has learned to care of others since she was a first grader after helping her mother take care of a sick aunt who suffered a severe stroke and subsequent limited mental capacity. She believes that the world indirectly teaches people to only care about themselves and those closer to them, but people should also extend their care and kindness to others who need it. Throughout her life, she has observed how social inequalities leaves many minorities and impoverished people struggling for success. She therefore wants to help level the playing field by educating people and leading by example for other minorities as a Junior Fellow at The Pulse Institute for 2020-2021.

Kellen Fife

Kellen Fife, is a junior at Bloomfield Hills High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Kellen is a four sport Varsity athlete who plays soccer and basketball and  also runs cross country and track. She plays travel soccer for Vardar ECNL and is planning to compete as a collegiate soccer player. She also plays the violin and is a member of the BHHS orchestra. In her free time she enjoys playing sports, hanging out with her friends, and hanging out with her dog, Tobin. 


Kellen has worked with the non-profit, Attack Hunger, run by Mike Ash since 5th grade. For her personal project, a graduation requirement at BHHS, she connected with Alternative For Girls, a women’s shelter and resource in Detroit, and donated over 100 pairs of leggings and pants. With the help of her dad, she also organized a fundraiser to donate much needed funds during the peak of COVID-19 raising over $4,000 for The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries. Kellen started a training program for soccer working with young girls, focusing on technique, basic skills, and endurance. She was also a part of a program called Big Buddies of Bloomfield started by two of her friends, where she worked with kids in 1st grade helping them with school work and navigating throughout the switch to online school. She is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club at BHHS and helped organize a coat drive this past winter. She is serving as a Junior Fellow at The PuLSE Institute for 2020-2021.

Victoria Wilson

Victoria Wilson is currently a junior at Cass Technical High School in Detroit. She is a women’s lacrosse junior captain and has been a member of Doctors of Tomorrow in partnership with the University of Michigan since her freshman year. She has been involved with many organizations and groups including the student government, GSA, and school improvement organizations.

Her most recent contribution to social justice was the inspiration of the Cass Tech Focus Group (CTFG) co-founded by her school’s principal. This organization has focused on mental health, cultural awareness and the effects of poverty both in and around Detroit public schools. They have conducted toy drives, cultural showcases, and implemented day centered around conversations about mental health between students and teachers called “courageous conversations.”  She plans to study biological studies at the University of Michigan and has aspirations to become an anesthesiologist in the future. One of her biggest dreams is to create a safe environment in the healthcare world for people of all origins and backgrounds. She is strong-willed and extremely excited to take on the role as a Junior Fellow at The PulSE Institute for 2020-21.

2018-2019 Junior Fellows

Leila Audi

Leila Audi has been a 4.0 student since her 6th grade. She is currently a sophomore at Dearborn High School in Dearborn, Michigan where she serves on the student council and has her eyes fixed on going to college and becoming a pediatrician. In her words, “I am drawn to pediatrics because I want to help children – and their parents – live healthier, happier lives.”

Leila is very active in track and field events and has many top medals to show for her tenacity and diligence. To her, sporting activities help to build bridges across racial and economic divides and promote good health and conviviality. She also loves to volunteer in school and community events, especially the ones that offer much-needed hope and help to the less fortunate among us. Aged 16, Leila, believes the world would be a better place if we all look out for not just our family and friends but also those neighbors whose unfortunate circumstances should not deny them the essential benefits of our common humanity. She is serving as a Junior Fellow at The PuLSE Institute for 2018-2019.

Madison Bryant-Carter

Madison Bryant-Carter, is a sophomore at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan. She sees herself as a future political journalist with plans to attend Howard University in Washington D.C.  She describes herself as a lover of diction and wordsmanship and admires the work of creative and influential writers and civil rights leaders of the past such as Malcolm X. She wants to see more black voices represented in the media and that is part of her drive to become a journalist.

She has long developed an interest in writing and reading from St. Paul Lutheran School to Renaissance High School, where her perspective has grown and she is finding her voice. She is involved in art and chess competitions. From taking the stage at Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, being president of a club at school to giving a voice to budding journalists young journalists at the student newspaper, she wants to be a change agent. She believes that through the power of the pen she can promote political diversity and humanitarianism in society. She is serving as a Junior Fellow at The PuLSE Institute for 2018-2019.

Katie Heath

Social entrepreneur and dedicated STEM student, Katie Heath, is a junior at the Bloomfield Hills High School (BHHS) in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Since the age of 10, Katie has volunteered at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, where she has worked at numerous health fairs and led patient activities. She is conducting research in the field of cancer imaging where she is mentored by two world-class faculty in the clinic as well as in the laboratory. These unique experiences inspired Katie to develop focuStem, a program which provides a path for STEM—interested students from underserved high schools in Southeastern Michigan to learn about careers in science, technology, and healthcare.

As president of the BuildOn BHHS chapter, Katie has also led the initiative to contribute to the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, including fundraising that resulted in providing 1,000 meals for the Detroit community. In addition, Katie enjoys playing the flute in the BHHS Symphony Band as well playing tennis in the BHHS Junior Varsity tennis team. She is serving as a Junior Fellow at The PuLSE Institute for 2018-2019.

Isabella Kakish

Isabella Kakish is currently a senior at Northville High School in Northville, Michigan. In school she has been involved in several clubs, including the club that she and her best friends created called Kids with Compassion. The club’s mission is to provide their high school peers with an opportunity to give back in the metro-Detroit area. They partner with organizations such as the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, Vista Maria, and LAHC to put together events through which their members are able to interact and connect with people outside of their centralized community.

She plans to attend college next year and focus on studying psychology and internal studies. In the future she would like to be able to work for an organization or nonprofit that allows her to travel to underdeveloped communities across the world and work with children. She is serving as a Junior Fellow at The PuLSE Institute for 2018-2019.

Jenna Jaafar

Jenna Jaafar is currently a senior at Northville High School in Northville, Michigan. Her passions include piano and spending time on the Great Lakes with her family and dog, Teddy. She is the president and founder of Kids with Compassion (KwC), a student-led organization she started as a Freshman with her sister and best friends, that focuses on community service and advocacy initiatives in Detroit and the metro area.

KwC has partnered with community and non-profit organizations such as the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, Vista Maria, Books for a benefit and helped raise research funds for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). In addition, she is an active member of Smiles for Students, a group that pairs high school students with their special needs counterpart through a variety of social and mentorship opportunities. Jenna is a graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy, a certification program that helps bridge the gap between students and public service. The granddaughter of immigrants, Jenna understands the power of empathy and inclusion and is serving as a Junior Fellow at The PuLSE Institute for 2018-2019.

Lonnie D. Renfroe Jr.

Lonnie D. Renfroe Jr. is a senior at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan. He has participated in the choir for all four years, one year in Male Vocal, three years in the Varsity Chorus, and one year in Renaissance Men.

In addition to these activities, he has been a part of the Mime Ministry at Liberty Temple Baptist Church for the last five years where he has been ministering at other churches in the community. His future academic plans are to go to college and obtain a Master’s degree in electro-mechanical engineering without owing any debt. He plans to do this by any means necessary, even if it means joining the military. His main professional interests lie in the following fields: mechanical engineering, culinary arts and vocal performance. He is serving as a Junior Fellow at The PuLSE Institute for 2018-2019.

Aricka Croxton

Aricka Croxton is a junior at University Preparatory Academy High School in Detroit, Michigan. She participates in soccer in the spring and is a member of the drama club at her school. She plans to go to attend college to study journalism and hopes to pursue a career in that field. She traveled to Japan in the summer of 2017 for oversees cultural studies and is also planning on a similar trip to France. She is very passionate about drama and theatre. She is a member of the International Thespian Society and performs at the Michigan thespian festival annually. She wants to travel around the world to learn about different cultures and how to be of service to others in need. She is serving as a Junior Fellow at The PuLSE Institute for 2018-2019.

Cate Lindstrom

Cate Lindstrom is a senior at Northville High School in Northville, Michigan. Throughout high school, she has been involved in multiple groups and organizations such as student government, school improvement committees, national honors society, and being a competitive dancer for over 10 years. However, she found her true passion within various volunteer opportunities.

She and her two best friends created the club Kids with Compassion where she go to channel her extroverted personality and drive to help others to its fullest. Her group has been able to work with organizations such as Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, Vista Maria, Books for Benefit, NAMI, St. John’s Children’s Center, and more. While she feels more connected to her community through other school outreach opportunities, Kids with Compassion has allowed her to connect to the citizens that makeup the wonderful city of Detroit. She is excited to continue to spread this love of giving back by serving as a Junior Fellow at The PuLSE Institute for 2018-2019.