The University Record, October 28, 1998

New Michigan Community Service Corps to send students to Saginaw, Marquette next summer

By Janet Nellis Mendler
News and Information Services

Students eager to make a difference, faculty whose lives and careers have been transformed by service experiences, community members passionate about improving their communities and a grant from a local foundation are enabling the University to expand a program piloted last summer in Benton Harbor and Flint.

Establishment of the Michigan Community Service Corps was announced last week on the steps of the Michigan Union where John F. Kennedy Jr. first proposed the concept that led to the creation of the Peace Corps.

The program, part of the University’s Center for Community Service and Learning (CCSL), enables teams of undergraduate and graduate students to collaborate with community-based organizations, civic agencies, churches and school districts to strengthen the social development of children and to revitalize neighborhoods in which children live. The students will travel next summer to Marquette and Saginaw, but eventually, says Maureen Hartford, vice president for student affairs, the program could serve all 83 Michigan counties.

Stacy Arnold, an LS&A senior from Jenison, spent last summer in Flint.

“We weren’t there long enough to change the way students look at their school, but we worked with the youngsters, their parents and community members to transform the way their school looks,” Arnold said. The work her group started will continue, as will her sense of personal gain. “By the end of the summer, I saw myself not only as a student, but also as a member of the community.”

Mark Holter, a senior researcher in the School of Social Work, also spoke at the Union ceremony. The former Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa noted that political, social and economic forces create profound differences between societies, yet working toward common goals reinforces a sense of shared humanity.

Says CCSL Director Barry Checkoway: “The program will make genuine contributions to improving the quality of life in communities while also enabling students to strengthen their learning from experience as an integral part of University education in a diverse democratic society.”

Seed money for the Benton Harbor and Flint projects came from Whirlpool Corp. in Benton Harbor. A gift from the Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation will help supplement costs of program planning, student stipends, supervisory support and transportation for Corps projects in Saginaw and Marquette.

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