There is something about Flint and being from here that instills such pride. It's a phenomenon Jerry Leman knows well. He was not born here, didn’t grow up here, and has never lived here. Yet, you’d be hard-pressed to think otherwise.
Leman worked for General Motors for 37 years -- the final 15 in a role as plant manager for three different Flint-area GM facilities.
“I have always liked Flint and wanted to give back to the community,” Leman says. And he has been giving back in a big way for the past five years as the Team Leader for the General Motors Student Corps program.
The program was started in Detroit to give a select group of soon-to-be high school seniors a paid, summer internship designed to help them plan and implement community service projects, usually focused on improving facilities at schools or parks.
Leman brought the program to Flint in 2014, and with the help of the United Way of Genesee County chose Flint Southwestern Classical Academy as their inaugural school. This past spring, for the fifth consecutive year, teachers and administrators at the school chose from an initial pool of 20 candidates who have to write an essay on the importance of serving one’s community or school. From there, 10 students are chosen for the 10 week-long summer internship.
Kasmin Harris was one of the 10 selected.
“I truly wanted to be part of this program because I wanted to make a change within our community and in our school,” Harris says.
Harris and her teammates completely renovated one of the courtyards at the school by building a large deck with an outdoor classroom, fully equipped with picnic tables for seating and a Zen garden. Harris, who plans to study either Criminal Justice or Dance and Vocal Performance after she graduates, says the amount of pride the team took in their work was impressive.
“I’m most proud of how committed the team was to finishing the project," she adds.
Harris’s friend and classmate, Alexis Speaight, was also one of the 10 chosen. Beyond seeing that their project was completed on time, Speaight and the nine others also spent time working with mentors learning certain life skills such as opening a bank account, establishing credit, the dos and don’ts of interviewing for a job, and the importance of both verbal and written communication skills.
“Without communication, my team and I would not get any project done. We needed to use our communication skills in order to tell each other how we feel or to encourage each other to work harder”, Speaight says. Speaight plans on attending Western Michigan next fall where she will study aviation. Ultimately, she hopes to become a pilot.
Each member of the team was encouraged to save $2000 of their pay for their future college tuition. The United Way of Genesee County then matched all monies saved and donated it to charities chosen by the students. This summer’s team chose The Humane Society of Genesee County and Catholic Charities of Genesee and Shiawassee Counties.
Both Speaight and Harris say the entire team has a better perspective on how they will approach their school work and extracurricular activities this school year. They say GM Student Corps taught them how important teamwork and communication are, no matter what task they are trying to accomplish. And that, according to Jerry Leman, is the ultimate goal of the program.
Leman says he will continue to be involved in the program here in Flint because the city has given so much to him. One thing it’s given to him -- that Flint pride. It is, after all, what he considers to be his adopted hometown.