By Maria Salinas

The University of Michigan-Flint and the Beecher School District partnership completed the first half of a two part College and Career Readiness Program when 60 kids from Beecher’s junior class were hosted on campus on Wednesday, March 22 as part of the school district’s three day SAT Preparation Boot Camp. UM-Flint students in the secondary education teaching certificate program were key contributors to the success of the SAT Camp which was coordinated by UM-Flint Neff Center staff member, Maria Salinas, and staff from Beecher High School. The second half of the College and Career Readiness Program will occur later this spring when the same Beecher students will come back to the campus for a two-day college immersion experience coordinated by the Neff Center in partnership with UM-Flint Admissions and various academic departments that will assist Beecher students exploring possible career pathways.

Beecher’s SAT Boot Camp was held on Monday, March 20-Wednesday, March 22 during regular school day with the first two days being held in the school district and the final culminating day on the UM-Flint campus.  Beecher High School staff, Mrs. Treva Daniels-Carlson and Mr. Matt Adams with participation from Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD) staff member, Mrs. Ferguson, led the event with a focus on test preparation and content skills. UM-Flint students that contributed to multiple portions of the three day agenda included student teacher, Ms. Maggie Hudkins, who led math review.  Three Secondary Education students, Susan Geisler, Courtney Ruggles, and Madeline (Maddie) Wohlfeil, created and facilitated SAT Jeopardy, taught reading strategies, proctored the Grammar Test, and went over the answers with the Beecher students.

The Camp also incorporated college readiness activities and mindfulness lessons.  Partners from Mott Community College Closing the Achievement Gap and the UMHS Regional Alliance for Health Schools (RAHS) assisted Neff Center staff with these elements.  Motivational speakers were brought and included Ms. Lisa Sarno, Social Worker with the UM RAHS, Mrs. Simone Lightfoot, Director of Urban Initiatives with the National Wildlife Federation, Marquise Gray, 21st Century Coordinator, Beecher Varsity Basketball Coach, MSU Star, and Beecher alumnus, and Courtney Hawkins, BCSD Athletic Director, Star Athlete, and Beecher alumnus.

This is the 4th year that the UM-Flint Neff Center has supported Beecher through the SAT (formerly ACT) Boot Camp and the first year the school district incorporated the activities into the school day.  The camp and the Career Pathways college immersion trip supported in part by a GISD Greater Flint Educational Consortium (GFEC) CARE Grant awarded to Beecher School District.  The GFEC works cooperatively with local districts, post-secondary partners, and community organizations to develop and implement cooperative efforts which facilitate sharing of information and resources to improve student success, and pursue quality and equity of educational opportunities for all members in the GISD service area.

UM-Flint students interested in work-study positions as tutors in the Beecher School District can contact Maria Salinas at masalina@umflint.edu or 810-640-8243.

University Outreach provided research support to the Flint & Genesee County Opportunity Youth Coalition by identifying federal grant programs available to fulfill their vision that “Flint & Genesee Opportunity Youth will have the resources and support to succeed in education, career, and life.”

It is estimated that nearly 10,000 people in Genesee County, ages 16-24 are not in school or employed. This number represents 19% of all Genesee County youth (Opportunity Index, 2016). Collectively known as ‘Opportunity Youth’, these young people hold a tremendous amount of potential to complete their education and contribute to the local economy.

The Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, coordinates the Opportunity Youth Coalition and met with University Outreach in summer of 2016 to assist with data collection to further define where and who these 10,000 young people are. The report, published in March 2017, includes details on geography, gender, income, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, dependents, and homelessness. The report also details the federal funds that currently flow into Genesee County for job training, education, housing, childcare, and healthcare services.

University Outreach staff member, Sara McDonnell worked with UM-Flint students Paige Tiedeman and Elizabeth Sims, and faculty member Kasie Nickel-White, to complete the research. UM-Flint student, Paige Tiedeman, spent nearly six months collecting data about Flint and Genesee County’s Opportunity Youth, and the types of federal grant opportunities that could be sought after by the Coalition to support young people in completing their education, and preparing for and securing gainful employment.

Read the Full Report

Learn more about the Flint and Genesee Opportunity Youth Coalition

After hearing from community members that there is a need for more targeted entrepreneurial training in Flint’s neighborhoods, University Outreach’s Innovation Incubator sought funding to develop a business boot camp that can be used with populations across the community. The Innovation Incubator was awarded a $49,050 grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation to implement the North Flint Economic Prosperity program, which will begin this September.

The incubator plans to offer at least three boot camps in various north Flint neighborhoods. The locations include the first and third wards, the Civic Park neighborhood and the neighborhood surrounding the Hispanic Technology Center. The five session boot camp will include both faculty instruction and speaking engagements by local successful entrepreneurs that can serve as role models for participants. Teenagers and adults will be taught together to give both groups a broader perspective and to encourage more diverse business teams to form. At the end of the boot camp, teenagers are eligible to participate in a culminating business pitch competition for prizes to support their venture.

All of the boot camps are being offered for free and will run for five sessions each between February and June 2017. In the fall semester, students will also help collect data from pre-existing business owners in these neighborhoods regarding business climate, availability of business support services and obstacles to growth. Visit go.umflint.edu/in to register or for more information.

By Sara McDonnell

“If you build it, they will come,” that was the line from the Field of Dreams movie that Kevin Costner starred in, those of us around in the 90’s will remember that movie. I remember there being all kinds of spoofs off that movie one-liner. I never thought much of it but the saying holds true when it comes to building habitat for wildlife. Many of our Flint parks provide habitat, and many just need the extra nudge to become something special.

picture5That’s what students at Flint’s Southwestern Academy learned last year while in Ms. Kim Hatfield’s and Ms. Linda Heck’s classes. Their school has these really cool internal courtyards that they’ve worked on to improve and create art, garden space, and habitat in. Some of nature’s friends, mostly ducks, have enjoyed living in one of the courtyards but it wasn’t providing enough food or shelter.

The students had begun asking questions, “What if there was a place at our school for wildlife to live? What types of things do ducks, birds, amphibians, need to thrive? What would that look like? Where is the best place to build something?” by getting out of the classroom, practicing place-based education, the students identified an ideal location in the park next to their school.

picture2All of Flint’s schools were planned as school-park sites, which basically means that every school has a park located next door. Cronin Derby Downs is the park next to Southwestern Academy, you know the one with the epic sledding hill? Part of that park is wet most of the year, the grass is usually soggy, making it hard to mow and looking kept up.

Thanks to a mini-grant from University Outreach’s Discovering PLACE program, the teachers were able to work with Genesee Conservation District to design an outdoor habitat space at the park. A partnership was formalized between UM-Flint, Flint Community Schools, city of Flint, and the Genesee Conservation District to get the design work done. UM-Flint Outreach has been working with all the parties for many years thanks to funding from the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust.

swahabitat_concept-9-15The students led a design process that had been approved by adults. Student voices informed development of the habitat project next to the school. The project that supports the Imagine Flint Master Plan, and its recommendations for blue/green infrastructure – naturalize part of the park to provide habitat for wildlife, and cut down maintenance costs. How cool is that!

With no time to rest on their laurels, the students and teachers, working with UM-Flint Outreach and the Conservation District, started digging up the grass in preparation of restoring a vernal pool and planting of native vegetation. It was hard work, and there wasn’t a way the students could get it done in time. The students put their thinking caps back on and again started asking “how much does it cost to restore habitat?” The cost estimates came in and it was going to cost about $19,000 to have the professionals come in, and buy all the materials they needed.

southwestern-46That’s when, University Outreach, with its long standing relationship with Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN), put together a grant proposal to cover the costs of building the habitat. It was awarded! Saginaw Bay WIN is a group of funders, based out of Midland and Bay City that supports projects that protect and restore the Saginaw Bay Watershed.

Work is going to start this fall, Genesee Conservation District is leading the construction, while a retired school teacher, Ms. Linda Heck, will work with individual classrooms to design lesson plans, so students can learn science, math, and English language arts outside the school, next door in the habitat that their older classmates designed. That is the coolest part of all. The students dreamed and designed a place for local wildlife to thrive. And believe me, they are thriving!

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The Discovering Place program works with Suzanne Knight and Laura McLeman, co-coordinators of the Secondary Teacher Certification Programs, Professional Education Unit at UM-Flint, to align secondary education teaching practices with place-based education. Please contact Leyla Sanker to learn how you can connect with this work at lsanker@umflint.edu or (810) 424-5477.

Additional Reading

Getting Students Interested in Natural Resources Sciences

Flint initiative redefines place-based education in urban schools

by Maria Salinas

PhotoGrid_1439915349773The University of Michigan-Flint Neff Center and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint have a partnership that began with the Parks in Focus programming. This summer, the Neff Center and the Mentoring to Access Corps, AmeriCorps Member partnered again with the Boys and Girls Club to bring College Readiness Opportunities to their students. The College Readiness presentations began with a conversation and the end product consisted of a Vision Board for students in each category, cadets (ages 7 to 9), juniors (10-12) and teens (13-17).

The College Readiness Presentations were a lead in to what became the 2015 College Fair held Friday, August 14 in the Boys and Girls Club on Averill Ave. The colleges and universities that were in attendance include Davenport University, Ferris State University, Kettering University, Mott Community College, Oakland University, University of Michigan, University of Michigan-Flint and the Committed to Excellence and Opportunity (CEO) program from UM-Flint. A total of 72 students ages 7 – 17 participated in this worthwhile event.

by Maria Salinas

Parks in Focus® is an educational program of the Udall Foundation that connects youth to nature through photography by organizing action-packed outdoor excursions to local natural areas and immersion trips to awe-inspiring National Parks. Parks in Focus® formed a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Flint and University Outreach at the University of Michigan-Flint in 2011. This year, we have included a Mentoring to Access Corps, AmeriCorps member to add a career alignment with the applicants. Together, we have taken groups of BGC youth to explore and photography local natural areas in/around Flint each summer since 2011. For more information, visit pif.udall.gov.

Parks in Focus aims to:PhotoGrid_1439916598935

  1. Provide outdoor experiences for youth who have had limited exposure to nature.
  2. Increase participants’ appreciation for their local environment and public lands.
  3. Encourage participants to use photography as a tool for environmental learning and as an outlet for creative expression.
  4. Engage youth in service and stewardship.

Seventeen students and alumni participated this year and were able to receive a camera for the duration of the program. They had the opportunity to visit Ligon Outdoor Center, For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum, Blue Bell Beach, UM-Flint and Applewood Estate. While on their visits, they received photography lessons and were able to integrate their knowledge from the lessons into personal experiences as they took photos of their environment. Guest speakers spoke with the students to enhance their understanding of how to capture great photos of their subjects, using various perspectives. The students were also able to do an interactive activity where they were able to identify different water species.

By Maria Salinas

global-youth01Given the opportunity to give back to their community, 109 of Beecher Middle High School students participated in Global Youth Service Day. The students enjoyed a day outside of their classrooms and getting their hands dirty. These students also worked alongside their peers, teachers, community members, College Positive Volunteers, college students, and UM-Flint staff. Students completed several projects such as planting sunflower seeds, fruit trees, berry bushes, spreading mulch and gravel, and picking up trash around the school.

The Outdoor Learning Classroom is a learning space that the students imagined a few years ago. They wanted a space where they could take their learning outside the classroom and try different things they learn, such as soil testing. Not only is it a place for them to have hands on experiences, but it is also an opportunity for them to participate in civic engagement by helping to maintain the garden that is also a part of the Outdoor Classroom.

By Maria Salinas

college-toursSitting in school doing various academic enrichment activities during intercession, is often times repetitive! During April’s intercession, the students at Beecher Middle High School received a change of scenery! The students had the opportunity to visit a different college during their April Intercession. The Neff Center was able to accompany 21st Century, an afterschool program through Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD) and other staff to Wayne State and Michigan State University. The students were able to receive overviews of the schools followed by a tour of the campus. The students were able to ask questions varying from subjects on classes to student life.

Arriving to Michigan State University campus was nothing new to the students at Beecher Middle High School. Many had visited the campus Breslin Center in support of their high school boys’ basketball team, which have won three championship games within the last four years. The students admired the size of campus and were only able to tour a portion of it due to the weather and time restrictions. Overall the students enjoyed the change of place and having the opportunity to gain academic enrichment in a different setting.

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You may ask, “What are 11th graders at Beecher High School doing during their intersession time? Are they sitting at home relaxing and playing video games? Are they gaining more hours at work?” We are pleased to say the students spent their time attending an ACT Boot Camp offered by the Beecher Community School District and the University of Michigan-Flint.

The University of Michigan-Flint Neff Center hosted the second annual ACT Success Week February 17-19, 2015. Workshops were led by Mr. Matthew Adams, a Beecher administrator; Mrs. Aingeal Jones, a UM tutor; Mrs. JoAnn Shabazz, UM- Flint College Readiness Coordinator and Ellie Jacques, a MSU student, community member and founder of Hero Town USA.

Before the ACT lessons began, students participated in a mindset workshop led by Ms. Jacques. Research shows the development of a growth mindset is essential to meet learning targets. The mindset workshop was designed by Dr. Phil Zimbardo and the Heroic Imagination Project in collaboration with Carol Dweck, the world’s leading mindset researcher.

Students were given a pre and a post-test, which measured their implicit theories, or “mindsets” about themselves and others. According to post-testing, Beecher students in the February ACT boot camp showed a definitive shift towards a growth mindset. Students showed great interest in the workshops and also gave very constructive criticism about how Hero Town USA could improve.

Students were then introduced to their instructors and began to learn basic techniques and strategies for taking standardized tests. Sample problems and timed test were given to students in order for them to get a feel for the amount of time they would have per question in each subject area. The students also learned how to structure a persuasive essay.

Students who scored an 18 or higher in each subject area on the practice tests during ACT Success Week will be exempt from that subject’s end of the year final exam.

There were a few returning students who participated in the October 2014 ACT Boot camp who chose to repeat the session in hopes of learning more useful strategies for being successful on the ACT. The session was well attended with students providing input regarding the information received. Staff are hopeful the workshop provided the assistance necessary to help students be successful on the ACT.