Water lab in Flint Development Center provides opportunities for high school and college students

FLINT, Michigan -- The McKenzie Patrice Croom Water Lab in the Flint Development building has been testing the water for Flint residents since its opening in March 2020. 

The lab was founded with a mission of rebuilding the trust of Flint residents in their water system following the Flint water crisis. The lab empowers people to learn how to test the water themselves and has also created opportunities for college and high school students in the area.

One of the main goals for Makayla Lynn Watson, who oversees the students, is to help them gain social skills along with learning about the inner workings of a lab. 

“A big thing we want to do is not just help teach them lab skills, but teach them more people skills, and more to understand where everyone's coming from and to understand the importance of the work that they're doing,” Watson said. 

Many of the college interns from the University of Michigan-Flint are not from the area and, before working at the lab, had only heard about the water crisis from an outsider's perspective. Through the lab, the students are able to go directly to residents, meet them, and work with them to test it. This makes the lab work they do feel more personal and helps the community become closer. 

The lab is also working with the Flint Community School District by having high school students help out in the lab. Even though they aren’t able to do the same things as the college interns, they get to experience working in a lab setting that they would not be able to find anywhere else. 

“We also help teach young students STEM skills that they would not have learned if they weren't here," said Watson. "The skills that they're able to learn in this lab, I never was able to learn in school. I just want to give the students an opportunity to help put their foot forward.” 

The staff is proud to have the lab be a safe space for all students and even displays LGBTQ+ pride flags in the office as they want students of all backgrounds to feel welcomed. 

Getting students involved in water testing has created a very encouraging movement to the community that is working hard to bring positivity and unity back as well as helping the future of the community.

For more information about the lab, visit the Flint Development Center website. A virtual tour of the lab is also online.

Read more articles by Megan Speaks.