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With UDM Student Leadership, the GM Student Corps is Another Success

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August 29, 2015

The third GM Student Corps ends Wednesday, Aug. 19 as UDM student leaders, General Motors executives, GM retiree mentors and GM high student interns gather to celebrate their summer of community revitalization. For many students and retirees, though, it’s only the beginning of new relationships aimed at helping students develop the teamwork and leadership skills to continue their success.

As paid GM interns, Student Corps members transformed the school’s once-shabby entrance, volunteered at local social services agencies, assembled bicycles and refurbished a community ball field. Working alongside volunteers from GM Powertrain in Pontiac, they learned about leadership, teamwork and making a difference in their communities.

“From now on these students will see their school and their community in a different light,” said Lew Elbert, a GM retiree who spent his second summer as a Student Corps mentor. “This summer gave them a jumpstart on adulthood, a sense of what’s out there and a lesson on what people can accomplish together.”

Pontiac High – new to the program this year – and 12 other schools recently wrapped up their Student Corps projects and presented their outcomes to Mark Reuss, program champion and GM executive vice president of Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, and his leadership team.

In all, 13 college interns from the University of Detroit Mercy, 128 high school students, along with 55 GM retirees, refurbished 11 schools and eight parks in their communities, painting, pulling weeds, spreading mulch, rebuilding broken benches, constructing a gazebo, planting vegetables and much more.

"As a university located in the city of Detroit, we’re honored to partner with General Motors on a program that not only invests in our city but in our young people – it’s an excellent model of how intergenerational leadership and service can benefit the entire region,” said UDM President Dr. Antoine Garibaldi.

In addition to selecting projects and operating them like small startups, the students attended life skills classes where they learned organization, decision-making, personal finance, conflict resolution and tips on applying to college.

To explore careers, they toured GM Design, GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, the GM Proving Ground, GM dealerships, Focus: HOPE, WXYZ-TV and other local businesses; and spent a day at UDM. Students also met with community leaders.

“To revitalize these communities, we must improve education and inspire our young people to lead and serve and give them a reason to stay,” said Heidi Magyar, director of GM Community Outreach. Magyar was part of a team that developed the GM Student Corps.

In Detroit, students at Detroit Public Schools Osborn Campus joined the nonprofit Life Remodeled and thousands of GM volunteers to give the school and surrounding neighborhood a massive facelift. In the school’s greenhouse, students built a new table with repurposed wood from an old gym floor. Outside, they rebuilt the pond and re-landscaped the courtyard, even making way for a butterfly garden.

In addition to Pontiac and Osborn, participating high schools were Central Collegiate Academy, Detroit Public Schools Cody Campus, East Detroit, Flint Southwestern Academy, Hamtramck, Harper Woods, Henry Ford, Madison, Melvindale, River Rouge, and Van Dyke Lincoln. Schools selected Student Corps participants based on leadership potential, citizenship and academic performance, and qualities such as determination and grit.

“My favorite thing about this program was that we got to give back to our own community while becoming better people,” said Javier Cartagena-Rodriguez of Pontiac.

Together, the 2015 GM Student Corps spread 999 yards of mulch; planted 700 flowers and trees; moved 61 yards of soil and stone; applied 246 gallons of paint and stain; and laid 750 feet of landscape edging. Equipment included two front loaders, 278 brushes and rollers and 300 feet of hose.

Students also formed relationships with their GM retiree and UDM college student mentors, who will stay connected with regular check-ins during the school year. Mentors have joined the students on college visits, helped them find work, assisted with college applications and attended graduation ceremonies. Mentors also coach students on points of etiquette, such as shaking hands, making eye contact, tying a necktie and conversing with adults.

The GM Student Corps was inspired by the GM United Way Network of Excellence. Funded by a $27.1-million gift in 2010 from the GM Foundation, the program has helped raise graduation rates in seven Detroit-area schools from 50 percent to nearly 80 percent.

The event will culminate with the final day on University of Detroit’s McNichols Campus as the students will learn from several UDM professors, how to continue to lead and serve in their community and the event’s final press conference with a welcome from the Detroit Mayor’s office and special thanks by GM’s Mark Reuss and UDM President Antoine M. Garibaldi. See GM Student Corps video online.

GM Student Corps

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