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 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

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.

The cold and rain did not stop students from Southwestern Classical Academy and Potter Elementary Schools who worked tirelessly in their effort towards building community pride and contributing to local park improvements at Flint’s Longway Park.arbor-day-201506

On April 30, 2015, students diligently worked with community partners and volunteers to plant 650 white pine seedlings, 100 shrubs/hardwoods and spread an acre of mulch in the park as part of a National Arbor Day celebration.  Their dedication and commitment in support of the City of Flint’s Tree City USA designation through the Arbor Day Foundation was key to a successful event.

The project also implements goals from the City of Flint’s Imagine Flint Master Plan for parks, open space and green infrastructure.  “Given the specific components and short timeline of the initiative, enlisting partners committed to working together was tremendously important to the project’s success” said Angela Warren, Administrator of Genesee Conservation District.

Longway Park is a 36.6-acre park with several ball fields, playground equipment, and approximately 4 acres of wooded area that will be expanded by this project.

This project was made possible through the generous contributions of Great Lakes Tree Experts of Burton, Bell Site Development, Inc. of Waterford who donated mulch for the project.  The Genesee Conservation District was instrumental in initiating the project by convening partners and providing education and hands-on expertise for the seedling planting and working with the students. This effort is part of the statewide On Track to a Greener Michigan initiative sponsored by Consumers Energy and Michigan International Speedway.

Jef Johnson, Senior Conservation Coordinator for Genesee Conservation District expressed his satisfaction and appreciation for the efforts of the students who participated.  “I’m proud of the students involved, they all worked hard and were determined to get the job done correctly.”  He also expressed appreciation for all the collaborative partners who made the event possible and is looking forward to future projects which will utilize green space within the community.


This event supports the Master Plan as a demonstration of a naturalization project.  Collaboration efforts included individuals from the City of Flint, teachers from Flint Community School District, SWA students, Potter Elementary students, Keep Genesee County Beautiful, Potter Longway Neighborhood Association, Eastwood United Methodist Church, the University of Michigan-Flint, Consumer’s Energy, Michigan International Speedway, Michigan Association of Conservation District and Genesee Conservation District.

“The collaborative nature of this project is a prime example of working together and pooling resources to accomplish objectives in our community,” said Angela Warren, Administrator of Genesee Conservation District.

Kim Hatfield, who teams with fellow teachers Linda Heck and Lynn Louchart-Kiefer to coordinate these efforts, said, “The kids get excited about these place-based projects.  Applying what they are learning in the classroom to real world projects makes learning more relevant for them.”

The school is supported in these efforts by UM-Flint’s Discovering Place place-based education program with funding provided by the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, Great Lakes Fisheries Trust, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


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.

By Nic Custer

After working closely with the Innovation Incubator to develop her business plan and refine her final presentation, UM-Flint student Ashley Knific won the 2015 School of Management Business Plan Competition and a $5,000 prize in March.

Ashley’s non-profit organization, Jobs 4 Moms1517493_678782812241098_6523167721083925809_n, will provide opportunities for parents and other caregivers to work flexible hours from home while raising their children. According to research, up to 43% of highly qualified women risk their careers when they take leaves of absence to raise their children. Jobs 4 Moms would like to change that statistic.

By using specifically designed software, the company will pair businesses with these skilled workers to generate personal income and reduce resume gaps. Businesses get qualified workers who can still take care of their children or loved ones.

Ashley will use the prize money to launch a viable website.  It will allow the company to develop its online platform to meet the needs of both its employers and parents. Full launch of the company and its services are expected later this year.

As the Incubator’s most recent qualifying not-for–profit client, Ashley also will begin receiving free office space in the Northbank Center this summer.

By Gary Ashley

The University of Michigan-Flint’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program enables students to learn about issues such as homelessness, poverty, hunger, violence, environmental issues, and complex social and cultural issues. Students listen to and understand community needs and continue a commitment to community service and social change. This year, instead of travelling to other areas to volunteer, the ASB board decided to stay back and serve with the Flint community.

ASB 2015 focused on: education, homelessness and hunger, animals, urban gardening, urban renewal and underprivileged children. From those topic areas, the board decided to work with the following sites: Boys and Girls Club, Carriage Town Ministries, Dailey Elementary School, Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, Habitat for Humanity, Humane Society, Kind Karate, North End Soup Kitchen and Salem Housing. We had 61 individual students volunteer throughout the week of spring break, for a total of 188 service days. At 5 hours per day, the students donated approximately 940 hours throughout the week. According to the Independent Sector, these hours can be billed at $22.13 per hour for $20,802.20 worth of service. The University of Michigan-Flint students once again made a colossal impact on the Flint community and beyond!

What ASB Alumni are saying about the program:

“Alternative Spring Break has been one of the most rewarding experiences during my tenure as an undergraduate and even alumni. To the critics that think that going on vacation is going to be a much more enjoyable experience, I can prove you wrong. Aside from monetary reasons, you are giving back to the community in several different areas. With our busy lives, it’s sometimes hard to volunteer a few hours in a week let alone give up a whole week to do so. Not only can you actually make a larger impact with a week, but you can see things actually get accomplished. One of the projects that was done during one of the years that I volunteered for Alternative Spring Break was a wheelchair ramp for a disabled Veteran. Not only do you get to see the completed project, but we got to see the emotional reaction from the Veteran that touched everyone involved. The best part is you get to meet new people that share the same passion for volunteering as you do.”

“Finding an organized way to get involved in the community can be a difficult task. One of the things that I loved most about ASB was how easy it was to get involved in a handful of organizations in just one week. To me, ASB was about more than just volunteering. Being a part of the ASB team was an amazing experience that created lasting friendships with the students involved, and a permanent attachment to the community which we served. These friendships and relationships don’t simply end when the week is over, or even when you graduate. I have been a part of ASB for the last 4 years so it is not something that fades away. The memories stay with you, and it has a lasting impact on who you are, especially who you are as it relates to the community that surrounds you. That is why I think it is so important to stay involved in one way or another, even after graduation. Participating as an alumni reinforces relationships, builds stronger connections, and closer bonds between you and the people you serve and serve with. The impression that it leaves is permanent, and will always leave the desire to reach out to those in need. ASB truly does last a lifetime.”

“My favorite part about Alternative Spring Break is staying at Carriage Town Ministries. By staying in their success houses, students are able to get a different perspective on the homeless population and on the city of Flint. Additionally, the houses provide an environment for students to bond and connect. At the end of the week, total strangers come out as friends, brought together by a desire to do service. My goal as a board members is to help people make connections, see the importance of service, and reflect on how those things fit into their lives. Those goals are achieved through the setting of Carriage Town Ministries.”

Alternative Spring Break 2015 would not have taken place without the generosity of Student Government, Campus Den, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Campus Activities Board, the Alumni Association, the Flint Crepe Company and Tropical Smoothie Café. We were able to travel Detroit on Friday for a thank you, an educational trip and also to make the connections between Flint and Detroit. Through Alternative Spring Break, this year we were able to work alongside the community that we all either live, work, or go to school in. We are looking forward to another great year in 2016!

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.


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.