It’s a beautiful thing when a UTC alumna and a UTC student are both interested in the revitalization and development of the cities where they were born. Kim White, known for her love of Chattanooga and her work with River City Company, an “economic development engine,” moves our city forward. Kayla Miller wants to do the same kind of work in Detroit.
When she was in ninth grade, Miller and her family moved from Detroit to Memphis. Make no mistake, she likes Memphis a lot, but she has a soft spot for the place where she was born and began her life.
“If I were to go back to Detroit, my goal would be to work for a business or in government and be part of redeveloping the city. I would want to create a foundation so that when it happens, it is done with sustainability, with the culture and history of the city intact,” Miller said. “Detroit will always be the Motor City—how do you keep that intact and create a new image?”
Miller, an environmental science major with a concentration in Environmental Policy and Planning, is a resident assistant for UTC Housing and Residential Life. She’s part of Unique Perception, a student group focused on women empowerment through leadership, financial, health and social service, and she served on the Student Government Association as a senator. She’s also an intern this semester at River City Company, responsible for stimulating the community’s economic, social and cultural growth. Miller knows she’s exactly where she needs to be. White, President and CEO of River City, agrees.
“As a UTC alumna, it thrills me to interact with high caliber students at UTC. I met Kayla when I took the SGA on a walking tour of the city last year. She impressed me from the start with her engaging smile, energy and thoughtful questions,” she said. “We are delighted to have her working with us on the River City Company for her internship.”
It’s “the little things” Miller picks up as she works closely with Amy Donahue and Paige Southard to actively recruit helping hands from Chattanooga and UTC student service groups to participate in Clean and Green, scheduled for Saturday, April 25.
“You have to be really organized!” Miller exclaimed, as she described creating a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to track nonprofits and participating organizations. “I realized you can’t reach out one time, you have to keep on top of communication to get a commitment.”
Donahue says having interns who work in her office who have a passion and curiosity about how downtowns work, especially revitalization efforts, is always a plus.
“And what has been great about having Kayla as a part of our team, specifically her work on our Clean and Green program, has been her tenacity and all in attitude. Whatever tasks we’ve asked her to complete, she’s done so with competence and a level of creativity that’s enhanced the program’s goal, the task at hand and the volunteer experience,” Donahue said.
As Miller also tracks the way UTC students travel downtown and to the North Shore for potential CARTA bus routes, she enjoys the good energy where everyone is working toward the same goal.
“Being in that atmosphere makes me want to do more. People are doing great things and they really care about the future of Chattanooga,” Miller observed.
White added it is “critical for anyone interested in city revitalization to understand the importance of partnerships and how working together for a common cause can bring many diverse groups to the table and create a better city because of it. I hope it gives Kayla real world experience in dealing with the challenging but rewarding task of community and city building.”