This past May, General Motors introduced a summer program called the GM Student Corps, which gave high school graduates work experience while giving back to the community. A total of 108 Detroit-area students along with 60 GM retirees and 11 GM student interns from the University of Detroit Mercy worked together to complete a variety of community service projects.
Together, the teams refurbished eight Detroit-area parks, planted 425 trees, shrubs and flowers, laid 392 yards of mulch, applied 223 gallons of paint, disposed of 205 bags and 29 dumpsters of plant overgrowth and refuse, distributed 30,000 pounds of food via local hunger organizations and more. The last work day of the nine-week internship was August 22.
Not only did the students build their teamwork and leadership skills, but they also made new friends and lasting memories. Below, Frank Watson III, one of the student participants, shares his experience with the program.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved with the Student Corps program.
I currently attend Wayne County Community College, double majoring in nursing and psychology. I’m a recent graduate from Henry Ford High School where I frequently volunteered in the community. Many of the students accepted in the program this summer were chosen after entering a contest. However, because of my volunteer experience, I was lucky enough to have one of my high school advisors recommend me for the opportunity.
How will your experience with the Student Corps help in your future career goals?
My ultimate career goal is to own my own hospital. At first, I didn’t think that this program would have much to do with my future career goals but knew it would be something good to have on my resume. When someone thinks of General Motors, they typically think of cars. However, through the program, I was really able to see how everything ties together and how important it is to know people with different business backgrounds.
There is a lot that goes into owning a hospital – there are legal staff, management and human resources, just to name a few. Being able to develop networking skills to meet and foster relationships with people of different business backgrounds is very important, and I think this experience really taught me that. One of my mentors in the program was even able to introduce me to someone from the Detroit Medical Center to talk with me further about the field I plan to work in some day.
What projects did you work on this summer?
We worked with a variety of organizations and participated in a total of 10 projects. Some of the organizations included the Detroit Parent Network, Forgotten Harvest, Gleaners and FOCUS HOPE. I’ve even been back to some of the places to volunteer on my own.
Our biggest project was the scraping and repainting of a local playground. Since my group graduated from Henry Ford High School, we were able to put our mark on the park by painting it with our school colors. As a result of our work, the community was able to host their first picnic in years – something they weren’t previously able to do because the area was in such bad shape.
Tell me about the mentorship that you received during the program.
We had five mentors in our group, and with the combination of their experience, we were able to learn more about the corporate world and what it takes to be successful in business. We also had a mentor that was an intern from the University of Detroit Mercy, which was really helpful because he could relate really well to us and our transition from high school to college. Our group clicked really well with our mentors.
What was your favorite part of the program?
My favorite part of the program was working together with my group. Even though we had our ups and downs during each of our projects, we were still able to come together as a group and get the job done. Everyone was always willing to come help me with my work and I was willing to help them.
Why is it important to have a program like this?
Not only does Student Corps give work experience to high school students, but it has a really great impact on the community.
I had a completely different idea of what this program was going to be when I started. We all showed up on our first day in full suits and ties and thought we would be sitting at a desk doing paperwork all summer. I quickly realized that the program was going to be much more than that. Not only did it help me build my networking skills and help me make extra summer money, but it was great to see us transform and beautify the city.
I never knew how much GM cared about the community. It was inspirational to see how much the company is giving back and investing in programs like the Student Corps to help redevelop not only the city of Detroit, but the people in it.
Frank recently shared his experience with the program at TEDxDetroit 2013 on October 2.
For more information on the GM Student Corps program, check out the Student Corps site: http://www.gm.com/company/aboutGM/student-corps.html
General Motors plans to continue the successful program next year and for years to come.