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.

By Gary Ashley

This year, 67 students and staff participated in Alternative Spring Break (ASB) from February 26-March 4, 2017. 

Through IMPACT Days and STAY-cation programs at the University of Michigan-Flint, participants engaged in local community service in the city of Flint. ASB worked with 9 community partners to provide service sties for participants addressing the social issues of homelessness/hunger, women’s advocacy, community wellness, urban renewal, poverty/public service, and education. This year, ASB also partnered with local community organizations including Weiss Advocacy, Salvation Army and more to provide on-site education sessions for participants. Based on the feedback received, taking students to sites instead of bringing speakers to campus proved to be a positive, powerful and eye opening experience. In addition to educational activities and service, STAY-cation participants spent the week immersing themselves in downtown Flint. While staying at the First Presbyterian Church of Flint, students ate at local restaurants and participated in group activities which allowed them to further enrich their ASB experience. 

In addition to the traditional local ASB in Flint, 10 University of Michigan students and staff from the Dearborn and Flint campuses spent their week serving in Muskegon, MI as part of a multi-campus initiative made possible by a Bicentennial Grant.  During the week, this group worked with Community Compass and the Muskegon/Oceana Community Action Partnership where they painted, organized, talked with the clients, and more! This unique opportunity allowed students from across the campuses to engage in meaningful community service, learn about another city, network with a diverse group of students, and create lifelong memories. Raquel E. from the Dearborn campus said “It is very powerful to meet people from the same university and that share the willingness to make something to help to improve this world”.

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.

southwesternBy Nic Custer

After two years of planning, more than 100 Flint Southwestern Academy students put the final touches on a wetland restoration project next to their school. The 150-foot-long excavated site was designed and constructed as part of University Outreach’s Discovering Place program and will retain rain and snow melt to create a plant and animal habitat and outdoor learning space. Rows of donated pine trees were also planted behind the site by students.  Discovering Place works with Flint-area teachers to implement place-based education projects connecting students’ curriculum requirements with their surroundings.

Teachers Linda Heck and Kim Hatfield have worked with Discovering Place for the past five years using the place-based education program to expand the connections between in-class lessons and real world examples. Over the years, students worked with Genesee County Conservation District staff to learn about the importance of wetlands for people, animals and water retention. The project, which aligns with green and blue infrastructure goals in the Flint master plan, was an important collaboration between the city of Flint and community stakeholders as well, according to City Planner Adam Moore. He said the project is part of a city strategy to responsibly maintain the city’s more than 1,800 acres of parkland.

southwestern-academy-018Hatfield said the pool gives students a sense of ownership of the space having been involved in the design and physical work to change the grass to a wetland. She said it is also great that students who couldn’t help build the site will be able to benefit from the site long after it is completed.

By Nic Custer

UM-Flint Social Work professor Todd Womack has been creating important multi-semester partnerships through his SWK 304- The Urban Context course at Joy Tabernacle Church in Flint’s Civic Park neighborhood. The goal of the course is to provide social work students with a real world, understanding of historical, economic, political and demographic issues that affect urban populations in the U.S., with a focus on Flint in particular.

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Professor Todd Womack leading his students in a discussion about how to best address community needs

This semester the class has partnered with Civic Park residents who are trying to create neighborhood-scale food and beautification businesses. University Outreach’s Innovation Incubator has been working with the social work students, not only to explain some of the necessary components of a successful business but also to teach them how to help residents build their own business model and create a start-up cost analysis that will help community members prepare to launch their ventures.

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Innovation Incubator staff member Nic Custer explaining a start-up cost analysis to Social Work students

The class culminated in a presentation for community members at the end of the semester, where students were able to dialogue with stakeholders and present their final projects. Community partners will continue to develop their neighborhood businesses in the Winter semester through an ongoing teaching partnership with the Innovation Incubator.

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 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 Alicia Gillman

On Friday, November 6, 2015, 202 students from 18 different colleges from across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula came together at the University of Michigan-Flint for the Active Students Leadership Conference (ALSC) sponsored by Michigan Campus Compact.  Students from the University of Michigan-Flint, Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, Madonna University, Saginaw State University, Lansing Community College, Central Michigan University, and Mott Community College worked to plan the Active Leaders Student Conference from May through November so that it was truly “for students, by students”.

The theme of the 2015 ALSC was learning how to “live and lead change” in our communities and beyond. The workshops available featured community service, service learning, and civic engagement. Participants had the opportunity to improve leadership skills, partake in personal and professional development opportunities, and learn about ways to improve service opportunities on their respective campuses. Furthermore, the conference gave students, faculty and staff from across the state an opportunity to network and provide a foundation for further collaboration.

Mr. JaNel Jamerson, Director of the Flint and Genesee Literacy Network and native of Flint served as the keynote speaker for the Active Leaders Student Conference.  Mr. Jamerson is committed to leading programmatic and systemic change through the development of literacy in Flint and Genesee County. During his keynote address, Jamerson discussed how participants can evoke change in their communities and left participants feeling empowered to make a difference.

To close out the conference, participants completed five service projects to benefit Carriage Town Ministries, a local homeless shelter in downtown Flint. Though participants only had about 45 minutes to complete the projects, they were able to yield nearly twenty no-sew blankets, over a hundred decorated lunch bags and holiday cards, several boxes of cut t-shirts to be used for residents to make t-shirt rugs, and over two hundred mini first aid kits containing Band-Aids and alcohol prep pads. These items will be utilized throughout the upcoming holiday and winter season by Carriage Town Ministries’ clients.

If you are interested learning more about how you can make an impact in the Flint community during your time at UM-Flint visit our Alternative Breaks page. Visit 2016 Active Leader Student Conference for information about next year’s conference.