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

By Gary Ashley

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As a public institution, the University of Michigan has a responsibility to the state of Michigan, its history, and its people. Each of the three University of Michigan campuses find ways to honor this responsibility through teaching, learning, and service. As coordinators who oversee the respective Alternative Spring Break programs on the Flint, Dearborn, and Ann Arbor campuses, we saw the University’s Bicentennial Celebration as a unique opportunity to engage students from the three campuses together in a high impact learning experience centered on service within community in a way that has not been executed before.

Typically, Alternative Breaks engage small groups of students from the same campus with similar interests in service and volunteerism in an experience that yields intrapersonal awareness, interpersonal skills, and deeper understanding of the world (Jones, et. al., 2012). This project will bring together a diverse group of 30 students from all three campuses to learn from and with each other. Facilitated by a group of three student leaders (one from each campus), they will work to learn about their role in addressing community issues within the state of Michigan while directly meeting community-identified needs. We will be working on the west side of Michigan. Once the community partners have been confirmed, we will determine the social issue that these experiences will explore.

civic-park-rectangleHas your office or department ever considered a day of service? On August 4, 2016 nearly 40 Human Resources staff from the University of Michigan-Flint and the University of Michigan Ann Arbor came together to serve alongside each other in the Flint community. University Outreach played a key role in identifying strategic partnerships, leading reflection and overall planning coordination of the day.

The first group served at Our Savior Lutheran Church, on N. Saginaw St. Volunteers handed out bottled water and water filters to residents, helped out with the food pantry, did weeding, cleaned up trash, and helped fix a swing.

civic-park-400The second group worked in the Civic Park area. Volunteers put mulch down, painted curbs, planted grass seeds, watered plants, painted a fire hydrant and did a general trash pickup.

The third group was at the Early Childhood Development Center at the University of Michigan-Flint. This group worked with the children on several projects and walked with them to the Flint Farmers’ Market as the youngsters learned about nutrition.

This is a great example of the Flint and Ann Arbor campuses working together on a civic engagement project that aligns with the Flint Master Plan.

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 Sherry Hayden

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Winners (left to right): Rhonda Jones, People’s Choice award; Artemis Mora, $500; Mark Hammond, $500; Josh Clouthier, Janice McCoy, Phil Boyd, $500.

UM-Flint students are an ingenious bunch. On March 24, 2016 at the Innovation Incubator, the public caught a glimpse of the exciting ideas happening here on our urban campus during the U Make the Change Competition.

Students presented innovative solutions to social problems, specifically in technology-based design, social impact, products, designs, and community-based art. Fifteen groups competed for prizes, but only four teams could be winners.

The judges were UM-Flint faculty, with lots of creative experience between them. Dr. Mark Allison is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science; Kurt Neiswender is a local architect who also teaches in Earth and Resource Science and Visual Communications departments; and Paula Nas teaches in the Economics Department and serves as Interim Director of University Outreach.

U-Make LogoComputer Science students Phil Boyd and Josh Clouthier teamed up with Janice McCoy, a graphic designer, to create an app that helps people come up with ideas for dates based on cost, activity level, time length, and location. The U Make judges were impressed with “Easy Dates” and awarded them a $500 prize.

They also awarded a $500 prize to Artemis Mora, for “Weaponized: Me,” a theatre project to help those with marginalized identities find the power of their unique voices to affect change. Mark Hammond won $500 with his smart phone application, “Let’s Fix Flint App” to connect volunteers with organizers of community engagement events.

Rhonda Jones won the People’s Choice award, voted by the majority of the 78 people who attended the competition. Her project, “Bottled Emotions,” recycled 5,000 water bottle caps into a large mosaic mural representing Flint’s lead-in-water crisis and the community response to overcome the issues.  Rhonda won mentoring with a UM-Flint professor to assist in marketing her community-based art.

This was the second year of the U Make Competition, which began as a joint project of UM-Flint University Outreach and the UM-Flint Association for Computing Machinery. This year sponsors included the UM-Flint Department of Visual Arts, the Recreation Center, and Office of the Provost.

By Sherry Hayden

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Essence Wilson

Have you noticed restorations on formerly abandoned, historic buildings west of Downtown Flint? What’s going on in the Swayze Building on westbound Court Street? Maybe you’ve noticed the transformation of Oak Street School into senior apartments on eastbound W. Fifth Street.

While any construction at this particular time in Flint is interesting, the bigger story is the way it is being done.

Years ago, Glenn and Essence Wilson dreamed of an improved quality of life for residents of their hometown. They saw a need for economic development and affordable, healthy housing solutions – and they wanted to be kind to the environment.  For three years, they built the foundations of Communities First, Inc.  They searched for a good business evaluation tool and found it in the concept of the Triple Bottom Line.

Glenn Wilson

Glenn Wilson

You’ve heard businesspeople talk about “the bottom line,” which refers to profit. But practical visionaries consider the bigger picture. They examine the potential social and environmental effects of business decisions. “The greenest building is the one left standing,” Essence said to a full house at the Innovation Incubator on Wednesday, April 6.

Taking the Triple Bottom Line into consideration actually promotes the long-term health and sustainability of a business – and a community. It pays off in multiple ways.

Glenn told entrepreneurs they will be tempted to take on projects for profit only. He advised, “Know who you are and stay true to it.” The Communities First Inc. model focuses on three main areas:

  • Economic development, which includes securing funding for mixed-use development projects, and hiring local workers;
  • Green Life Program, encouraging environmental practices in business and homes; and
  • Culture Shock, promoting arts and culture in the community.

In their presentation, they examined other local socially-minded organizations to identify the social, economic and environmental impacts. While there are important keys to implementing a successful sustainability model, Glenn said entrepreneurs should tailor plans to their own situations. That usually means identifying the primary focus of your efforts. For instance, someone may put environmental health first, but will need to consider the community and also find a way to make it sustainable through an income stream.  “It’s important not to try to do too much too quickly,” Glenn said. “Build your foundation and work your way up.”

immigrant u

Photo courtesy of Brandon Malevich

By Sherry Hayden

Did you know international students comprise about one-eighth of the student body at UM-Flint? It turns out you can have a truly international experience right here in Flint, Michigan. It’s exciting to travel to other countries and cities to learn about our differences and our similarities. That’s what is happening right here, right now.

Some of these international students have been working for a couple years on a documentary about their experiences coming to the UM-Flint from their native countries. The new documentary, Immigrant U: Our Story, Our Way, was conceived by students of Kendrick Jones, who lectures in the Theatre Department. Kendrick also is the director and founder of Shop Floor Theatre Company (SFTC), a non-profit housed in the UM-Flint University Outreach Innovation Incubator. SFTC is funded by a grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation, which funded the documentary and all the work leading up to it.

The students premiered the documentary at UM-Flint November 18, 2015 to a full house in the KIVA. It was followed by live, theatrical performances from some of the students.

I sat with my new friend Abeer, who immigrated from Sudan. She works across the hall from the Incubator at the Northbank Center. It is interesting to hear her perspectives; I am always impressed with how brave it is for anyone to move to a new country and start over. I’ve only visited other countries for a few months, and can only imagine being apart from my family and friends, and the land that I love so much, for an extended period of time.

We listened to the students talk about the difficulties of coming to a new country, being accepted by others, and even dealing with Michigan’s climate.  When one of the performers pleaded with the audience, “I don’t know anything about American football – will you still love me?” Abeer spontaneously cried out, “I will!”  The whole audience laughed. I was delighted – gentle humor is the common language here. Love and friendship are our common languages as well.

What this production revealed is that we are much more alike than we are different. Most of the problems presented by the students from India, Saudi Arabia, France, Nigeria and Jamaica really are no different from new students who grew up locally. Everyone has difficulty, especially the first semester of college. It’s new, different, and that requires adjustment. Every student wonders if she will make friends, fit in, and find her way around in the world.

A key message of the international students is that they want to be your friends and they want to learn and grow with you. That’s really what most people want, regardless of where they were born. UM-Flint is a great place to do that.

The University of Michigan-Flint’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) enables students to learn about issues such as homelessness, poverty, hunger, violence, environmental issues, and other complex social and cultural issues. Students listen to and understand community needs and continue a commitment to community service and social change. This programming has been expanded and complemented with Service Saturdays and Alternative Summer Break. Alternative Breaks is now the umbrella name for Alternative Spring Break, Service Saturdays and Alternative Summer Break. With this change we have approximately 39 student leadership roles. We have 5 executive board members, 14 general board members and 20 site leaders.

The University of Michigan-Flint’s Service Saturdays program is a University Outreach sponsored program that offers a community service learning experience on the local level during select Saturdays throughout the year. Students spend time learning about our urban community and many of the social issues that residents face in Flint. On designated Saturdays, participants will meet at the selected service site to engage in meaningful action towards a greater understanding of root causes of relevant issues. Following the project, students participate in critical reflection and analysis of the social justice issues they experienced first-hand.

Alternative Summer Break (ASuB) is a University Outreach sponsored program designed to provide an opportunity for students to partake in meaningful community service learning experiences throughout the United States. During the summer semester, students spend a week serving, addressing a particular social, cultural, or environmental issue. All trips are issue-based, meaning students choose a trip based on a specific topic, not a destination. The organizations and locations are not revealed until a few weeks prior to the trip. Through active engagement, critical reflection, and analysis, students will learn about the issue and the community in which they are serving. Following the trip, students will return as active citizens and be able to translate their experiences into addressing the needs of their communities.

We are looking forward to a great year of Alternative Breaks programming! Visit our AB webpage if you would like additional information on AB programming.

by Mona Munroe-Younis

University Outreach is wrapping up the third year of the Boyer Faculty Scholars Program, which deepens the campus-wide conversation, practice, and recognition of scholarship of engagement at UM-Flint.boyer-faculty-2014

Since its beginning in 2012, the program has engaged 130 people (68 faculty, 25 staff, 22 community organization representatives, and 15 students) as participants in 10 professional development workshops related to scholarship of engagement and partnerships, as well as providing more intensive support to 13 faculty members through Boyer Scholar cohorts.

Members of the cohorts participate in a series of professional development sessions, develop signature community-engaged projects that show how scholarship of engagement can be done, and raise the visibility of scholarship of engagement through campus-wide and departmental presentations.

The signature projects of the most recent cohort of Boyer Faculty Scholars span across a range of disciplines and three of UM-Flint’s academic units, namely the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education and Human Services, and the School of Health Professions and Studies.

Min-Hui Huang, Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy, developed a course in which her Physical Therapy students provided pro bono assessments of balance, mobility and fall risk to seniors living at Court Street Commons in Flint. As part of the partnership with Court Street Commons, the students’ assessments not only provided an opportunity for students to educate residents about how to improve their mobility and balance, but also formed the basis for referrals for clinical physical therapy services when needed.

Dan Lair, Assistant Professor of Communication, is leading a team of Communications faculty who will be teaching courses in the new Master in Applied Communication program in thinking about how to scaffold applied civic engagement projects throughout the graduate students’ academic program. As part of this work, Dan has forged a relationship with the City of Flint Planning Office, which will be partnering with the master program to engage students in year-long real communication projects that support the City in implementing its relatively new Imagine Flint Master Plan. The partnership is also exploring smaller-scale class project opportunities for the first year of the graduate students’ program.

Pamela Ross McClain, Assistant Professor of Education, adapted the capstone course she teaches for the Education Specialist graduate program to include a civic engagement component in order to support students in internalizing that civic engagement is part of the school leadership experience. The program prepares students to be executive leaders in the education field, such as school district superintendents. The capstone course requires each student to complete an action research project based on the challenges identified by Michigan school districts. Pam is also developing the C.A.R.E.2C.A.R.E. Model (Culturally Aware and Responsive Educators – Conducting Action Research in Education) to prepare future capstone students to work successfully in/with diverse communities.

Charlotte Tang, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, integrated service-learning into her 300-level Computer Science course and hired two Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) students to complete an applied project for the Flint Institute of Arts (FIA). Working in teams, the students surveyed guests of the FIA to learn about their needs and interests as FIA users and developed a set of recommendations for how to make the FIA exhibits and overall experience more interactive.

By Mona Munroe-Younis

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We are excited to recognize the local nonprofit Motherly Intercession, and share how the UM-Flint community is and can work with this organization to create bright new futures for children with incarcerated parents. The organization’s vision is that the children will realize that their parent’s destiny does not have to be their own and chart successful career paths for themselves. 

A Passionate Grassroots Beginning

Shirley Cochran is the soft spoken and eloquent Founder and Executive Director of Motherly Intercession. Under her leadership, Motherly Intercession is hard at work to break the cycle of intergenerational incarceration. Mrs. Cochran essentially started the organization 15 years ago at Christmas time when she and her spouse wanted to support a family that could not be together during the holidays because the mother was incarcerated. She reached out to mothers who were held in the Genesee County Jail, and received 23 responses. As she went through the families’ applications, trying to determine who most needed her help, Mrs. Cochran could not pick one family over another. “In an effort to support all of the families, I solicited the assistance of five other community members, which quickly grew to 15 volunteers,” explained Cochran. 

What started as a hope to brighten the holiday of one family, soon grew into a volunteer-based network of support for children with incarcerated parents. This was the start of something bigger than any of the volunteers imagined, and they developed Motherly Intercession into a non-profit organization in 2001. After the holiday project, the group surveyed incarcerated mothers, and spoke with their children and alternate caregivers to understand their greatest unmet needs. They found that the most profound challenges the children faced were:

  • Family separation – children had not seen their mother since her incarceration 
  • Emotional trauma – separation anxiety with the sudden loss of a parent
  • Truancy – not attending school, dropping out or failing school
  • Detrimental behavior – shoplifting, rebellious attitudes or entering the juvenile system   

The volunteers quickly realized that the families’ needs far exceeded the capacity of the community to respond, because no agencies in existence at the time were dedicated to this particular vulnerable population. Mrs. Cochran shared that they were “troubled by the magnitude of the problems the young, innocent children were facing, so the group changed its focus to the children of incarcerated parents.” Over time, the growing organization worked with the UM-Ann Arbor School of Public Health to develop evidence-based programs, helping to ensure that Motherly Intercession’s programming achieved desired results for the well-being of the children and their families.

Forging a Mutually-Reinforcing Relationship

On November 1, 2014, Motherly Intercession proudly awarded Dr. Suzanne Selig, Department Chair of the UM-Flint Department of Public Health & Health Sciences, an Essential Piece Award for her contributions to the organization over many years. 

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Dr. Suzanne Selig (left) accepts the Essential Piece Award bestowed by Motherly Intercession Executive Director Shirley Cochran at the organization’s annual fundraiser dinner.

Shirley and Suzanne met in 2009 when Motherly Intercession looked to UM-Flint for interns. The organization, by then an official 501(c)3 nonprofit, needed “interns to fill critical Group Leader positions for a two-year research project [with the UM Prevention Research Center] that focused on developing a system of support for the incarcerated families of Genesee County.” According to Mrs. Cochran, “Suzanne willingly agreed to collaborate with us and provided two excellent young women to fill those positions.  The internship placements continued throughout the project from which our Strengthening Incarcerated Families program derived.” 

In turn, Motherly Intercession’s internship placements gave UM-Flint public health students coveted real-world experiences within peer-reviewed research projects and leadership potential. For example, Shirley credits Suzanne with placing then-intern Michelle Fairley with Motherly Intercession, ultimately leading to Ms. Fairley becoming the President of Motherly Intercession’s Executive Board of Directors. Shirley also shared that Suzanne’s relationship with the organization ran deeper as she supported Motherly Intercession through her personal involvement “by attending our Annual Dinners, and the children’s Reading And Counting to Success (RACS) after school tutorial program graduation ceremonies.”

For her long-standing and diverse contributions, Motherly Intercession recognizes Dr. Selig as an “Essential Piece” champion for children with incarcerated parents.

Each Day, Unlocking Children’s Futures

Now, in the Winter 2015 semester, a group of UM-Flint students in professor Tony McGill’s capstone Senior Seminar in Professional Communications (COM 426) class is working with Motherly Intercession to raise awareness about the organization’s latest fundraising campaign.

The students in this service-learning class will put their social media, written, and face-to-face communication skills to work and gain resume-building, real-world experience by helping the organization reach its goal of raising $14,000 in 30 days through the online crowdfunding campaign Let’s Unlock the Future.” The funds will be used to purchase an urgently needed van.

Recently, Motherly Intercession was troubled to find an essential piece of its tried-and-true service delivery model out of commission and in need of replacement. The vast majority of families that Motherly Intercession serves are in poverty and do not have access to transportation. For that reason, Motherly Intercession requires its 15-passenger van to ensure that children from all over Genesee County consistently access the organization’s academic and other support services, as well as wrap-around services of complementary agencies (i.e. mental health assessments, arts enrichment, etc.).

In fall of 2014, the van was a victim of a hit-and-run accident. Then, on Devil’s Night, a mischief-maker smashed the windows of the van and other vehicles down the block (a first experience for Motherly Intercession). These damages, plus the fact that the van was already worn down and needing increasingly costly repairs, rendered the van in need of replacement.

Stay tuned for more news about this partnership as the semester progresses!

Get Involved

 Are you inspired by Motherly Intercession’s mission and interested in supporting its work? Consider these ways of getting connected and making a difference:

  • Join the COM 426 students in spreading the word about the Indiegogo campaign through your networks. Send emails, call your friends, and share the campaign through social media.
  • Volunteer to provide academic tutoring for the Reading and Counting to Success after-school program.
  • Call the organization at (810) 424-9909 to explore other ways to get involved through service-learning, research, or other forms of volunteer service. 

Check out this video to see Motherly Intercession in action and learn more about the transformation it brings to the Greater Flint community!

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