Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholar Plans to Help Detroit Business Owners

Last year I wrote about the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars program at American University in Washington, D.C. FDDS is an elite leadership development program for high schoolers who’ve earned a 3.8 unweighted or a 4.0 weighted GPA. No SAT or ACT scores are required to be eligible.


The prestigious scholarship provides students a full four-year ride: Tuition, room, board, books, mandatory fees, and a semester abroad are all covered for the exceptional incoming freshmen that are admitted to the program.

FDDS Scholar Winter Brooks


With the movie Detroit opening later this summer, perhaps this is an optimal time to spotlight one of the Motor City’s finest: FDDS Scholar Winter Brooks, a Detroit native who’s committed to revitalizing her city.

“I’ve been impressed with Winter’s irrepressible desire to make a difference in her hometown,” says FDDS Director Larry Thomas. “Her commitment to improve the quality of life in Detroit’s marginalized communities is inspiring.”

Although Brooks grew up in a low-income area, her parents supported interests—like ballet and traveling—that took her out of the neighborhood and defended her choices that were outside the status quo.

Of her FDDs experience, Brooks says in an e-mail, “My favorite thing about being in the … program is learning how to successfully build relationships. Before coming to American University, I always struggled with my confidence and being able to find my place in social settings, which hindered me from pursuing activities in high school. However, the program placed me in a community where students weren’t afraid to be excellent and were driven by similar interests.”

She continues, “Furthermore, I would say that the FDDS program pushed me to think more critically about my passions and interests in order to be more strategic about my career and personal pursuits. Through meeting accomplished people, weekly trainings, and mentorship, I have been able to pick up skills that have allowed me to accomplish things I couldn’t imagine doing when I first got into the program. Overall, I would say that the FDDS program really gave the necessary skill set to be successful, which has built up my confidence and made me believe that I could achieve way more than I ever thought I could.”

A Business Administration Major Goes Tech


A business administration major, with specializations in marketing and information systems, Brooks enjoyed a pivotal internship at Quicken Loans.

“Coming into college, I had no idea what I wanted to study. Over time though, I became interested in the intersection of marketing and technology in order to build stronger relationships between businesses and the communities they serve. The marketing specialization has taught me how to create innovative strategy, while the information systems has given me the analytical skills and technological insight to help execute those strategies.

“When I first applied to intern at Quicken Loans, I didn’t know much about the tech industry or how my business degree and interest in social justice fit into the roles there. However, during my two summers at QL as a business consulting and administrative intern, I learned not just about how diverse the tech industry is in regard to opportunities, but also how much a role technology can play in alleviating the problems faced in underserved communities.

“During my time there, I was able to gain valuable analytical and relationship-building skills that further allowed me to take on leadership roles the following years in undergraduate. However, the most important thing I realized at QL, by talking with mentors and participating in the company’s social initiatives, was that I was passionate in helping serve under-resourced communities by working toward economic empowerment.”

Now Brooks is interning at Google, where she works with small business owners to help develop their digital marketing strategies. She hopes to eventually use what she learns at Google to work with small business owners in the Detroit area.

Brooks says she did a lot of prep to snag the Google internship. “I pursued [the Google internship] for about a year and a half. All the prep I had done leading up to the application and interviews, including networking, participating in summer programs, etc., took a lot of extra effort on top of my work as an undergraduate, and it all paid off.”

For more information about the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars Program, visit its website.