Flint, Mich. — Efforts to help area children and teens succeed in — and beyond — the classroom have received an important boost, thanks to nearly $4 million in funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The grants to the Genesee Area Focus Fund include:
- $3.1 million for YouthQuest, a comprehensive afterschool program that provides educational and enrichment opportunities to more than 2,000 students enrolled in grades K–12, primarily in Flint Community Schools.
- $825,000 for the Summer Youth Initiative (SYI), which places young people in jobs with area businesses and nonprofit organizations, and TeenQuest, a youth leadership and pre-employment training program. Both SYI and TeenQuest are available to all Genesee County students ages 14 to 19.
The three programs are administered by the Genesee Area Focus Fund, a supporting organization of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.
“We want to see every young person in Flint and Genesee County succeed in school, work and life,” said Ridgway White, president of the C.S. Mott Foundation. “We believe high-quality afterschool and job-training programs are essential to helping students achieve that success, which in turn helps to build the strength and stability of the community as a whole.”
Studies have shown that high-quality afterschool programs can help youth:
- earn higher grades and standardized test scores;
- improve attendance and behave better in school;
- complete their homework more successfully and more often;
- be more apt to graduate;
- increase their problem-solving skills;
- have more positive relationships with their peers;
- become better adjusted emotionally; and
- develop better conflict-resolution skills.
Helping students work toward such outcomes is fundamental to the YouthQuest model, says Rhetta Hunyady, vice president of Education & Training at the Chamber. For example, the program offers research-based afterschool and summer activities that reinforce academic learning, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and the arts, as well as activities that promote physical fitness, youth leadership and volunteerism. Middle and high school students also can participate in Summer on the Road, a six-week series of field trips and other activities that help young people develop their academic skills, explore educational and career options, and stay active.
“Research shows the summer months can be a time when students experience learning loss, which puts them behind in key academic areas such as reading and math,” said Hunyady. “YouthQuest helps Flint-area students avoid summer learning loss while taking part in fun activities, discovering new interests and enjoying nutritious meals.”
YouthQuest serves students attending Flint Community Schools, the International Academy of Flint, and the Dye and Randels elementary schools in the Carman-Ainsworth school district. The C.S. Mott Foundation has provided almost $34 million in support for YouthQuest in Flint and Genesee County since 2001, including $15.7 million for Bridges to the Future, the program’s predecessor.
TeenQuest is a five-week program designed to help young people develop leadership skills and prepare for success in the labor market. Participants learn employment basics, such as teamwork, business etiquette, work ethics, communication, goal-setting and conflict resolution. The program is available to high school students throughout Genesee County.
SYI helps TeenQuest graduates put their newly developed skills to work. The program connects students with summer job opportunities in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. The program helps subsidize a portion of the related costs, including wages, for participating employers.
“These programs allow students to build the experiences and self-esteem that will help them succeed in school and the labor market, and employers benefit from the energy of an excited and motivated new workforce,” said Chamber CEO Tim Herman. “This represents a real win-win-win for teens, businesses and the community.”
This year, more than 400 SYI participants are expected to find jobs with more than a dozen Genesee County employers, ranging from school districts to parks and youth camps.
The C.S. Mott Foundation’s support for TeenQuest and SYI has totaled $13 million since 1996.
More information about YouthQuest and TeenQuest/SYI is available online at www.flintandgenesee.org.
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Serving the community for over 100 years, the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce is a premier business membership organization unlike most chambers of commerce. In addition to traditional member services, its responsibility includes serving as the lead economic development agency for Flint & Genesee, marketing tourism, youth and business training, and a Shared Services Center. For more information, visit www.flintandgenesee.org.