Detroit Regional Chamber > Chamber > Rocket Community Fund, Detroit Regional Chamber, and Last Mile Education Fund Announce Expansion of Detroit Area Talent Fund

Rocket Community Fund, Detroit Regional Chamber, and Last Mile Education Fund Announce Expansion of Detroit Area Talent Fund

March 14, 2024

March 14, 2024

  • Program helps qualified students with emergency financial assistance.
  • Phase one of the program supported nearly 1,300 Detroit students.
  • Kresge Foundation, Ford Fund, Skillman Foundation and Michigan Central join Rocket Community Fund as funders.

The Rocket Community Fund, Detroit Regional Chamber and Last Mile Education Fund today announced an expansion of the Detroit Area Talent Fund, which provides qualified college and post-secondary students with emergency financial assistance to overcome unexpected obstacles disrupting their educational progress.

Launched in February 2023 as a pilot program, the first phase of the Detroit Area Talent Fund supported nearly 1,300 Detroit students. Program participants receive mini grants, which are capped at a maximum of one $595 award per calendar year (or two awards per academic year), to address issues like transportation barriers, lack of devices, rent and utility bills.

RELATED: Rocket Community Fund, Detroit Regional Chamber, and Last Mile Education Fund Announce Results of Detroit-Area Talent Fund Pilot Program

In its second phase, the program will leverage additional funding from the Kresge Foundation, Skillman Foundation, Ford Fund, and Michigan Central to expand its reach. The focus will shift to students pursuing high-demand STEM majors and credentials, ensuring program sustainability and alignment with workforce needs. The Michigan Education Excellence Foundation has also been a partner since the pilot and continues to assist in partnership building, fundraising, and advocacy as the fund expands its reach. This targeted approach strengthens the program’s ability to serve both students and regional partners.

“Learning is one of the most important values to cultivate,” said Laura Grannemann, Executive Director of the Rocket Community Fund. “Too often we are seeing students forced to leave school due to unexpected expenses. We are proud that the Detroit Area Talent Fund is directly investing in students to break down these barriers, empowering them to pursue their goals and ultimately fostering a more skilled and vibrant workforce.”

The Rocket Community Fund has led ongoing efforts to expand and sustain the Detroit Area Talent Fund, committing a total of $1 million to support students. The new partners are contributing a combined $770,000 to further support the program, expand regional support, and provide additional scholarship funding and wraparound services for students.

“Covering tuition is just one part of the equation,” said Ruthe Farmer, Founder and Chief Executive Office of the Last Mile Education Fund. “Too often financially vulnerable students struggle to afford basic needs like transportation, food, housing and connectivity. This fund fills a critical gap in financial support for Detroit Area STEM students.”

Michigan Central is committed to increasing access to learning and skills development for Detroiters.

“Michigan Central has developed a series of mobility tech training initiatives for learners of all ages in Detroit, and we see first-hand in our programs how basic needs like childcare and transportation can become roadblocks to success”, said Clarinda Barnett-Harrison, Director of Skills for Michigan Central. “That’s why we are proud to join the Detroit Area Talent Fund and be part of a solution that empowers students to navigate these barriers and stay on track to join the workforce of the future.”

This fund builds on the Detroit Regional Chamber’s broader education and talent strategy, which is focused on increasing access, ensuring success, and growing talent to provide opportunities to all residents throughout the region.

“Removing barriers to graduation, like offering emergency support through programs such as the Detroit Area Talent Fund, is crucial to reaching our 60% attainment goal,” said Sandy K. Baruah, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “The Chamber, as the regional voice for business and its comprehensive education and talent program portfolio, is proud to partner with the Rocket Community Fund on this innovative effort.”

Applications are open on a rolling basis and can be found at

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About the Rocket Community Fund

The Rocket Community Fund aims to simplify complex and inequitable systems to ensure that every American has access to stable, healthy housing. It also invests in people and practices that provide meaningful opportunities for education and employment.

Through its For-More-Than-Profit model, the Rocket Community Fund recognizes that business and community are inextricably linked, and it purposefully harnesses team member talent, technology, policy advocacy and philanthropic resources to invest in comprehensive community development in Detroit and across the country.

Alongside financial investments, the Rocket Community Fund has organized Rocket Companies, Bedrock and other affiliated team members to provide more than 865,000 volunteer hours nationwide, including 430,000 in Detroit.

For more information, visit

About the Detroit Regional Chamber

Serving the business community for more than 100 years, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected chambers of commerce in the country. As the voice for business in the 11-county Southeast Michigan region, the Chamber’s mission is carried out by creating a business-friendly climate and providing value for members. The Chamber leads the most comprehensive education and talent strategy in the state. The Chamber also executes the statewide automotive and mobility cluster association, MICHauto, and hosts the nationally recognized Mackinac Policy Conference. For more information, please visit

About Last Mile Education Fund

Last Mile Education Fund is a national non-profit organization addressing social mobility and tech diversity through investment in overlooked and under-resourced talent. Since 2020, Last Mile has supported thousands of students completing degrees in high-demand STEM fields.