Melvindale students become GM employees

‘Improving the quality of life in our communities … requires investingin our young people.’
— Mark Reuss
GM-North America president

Sunday Times Newspapers

MELVINDALE — Ten Melvindale High School students received an opportunity to gain experience not familiar to many their age: They became General Motors Corp. employees.

Through a partnership between the United Way and GM, the GM Student Corps was created as a way to teach students essential life skills and provide them with real-life work experience.

It was introduced by Mark Reuss, GM-North America president, prior to GM directly hiring the students as interns May 20. The 10-week program will begin in mid-June and run throughout August.

The program includes 11 campuses, seven of which are considered “GM Network of Excellence Schools,” said Hannah Hoskins, a representative for United Way of Southeastern Michigan. Melvindale High School is a part of United Way’s network of turnaround schools.

“Improving the quality of life in our communities means more than writing a check,” Reuss said. “It also requires investing in our young people, teaching them how good it feels to see their hard work help others, and providing them with the skills they need to lead and succeed as professionals and as citizens. Once you serve, you’re hooked for life.”

The first step of the program was to introduce students to all aspects of the job offer process, Melvindale High School Assistant Principal Ryan Vranesich said, and now, the school is finalizing the community service events.

He said the key project will be the beautification of the athletic entrance to the school.

“We would like to bring some life to the athletic entrance of the school,” Vranesich said. “Currently, it is not a very welcoming atmosphere.”

Vranesich said other projects could include cleaning up of Kiwanis Reading Park, setting up food banks and meal programs in the community, and another community service project with the fire department.

Sixty GM retirees and 12 volunteers from University of Detroit-Mercy will train and mentor the students.

Mike DiGiovanni, GM retiree and UDM professor, is the lead for the group of retirees. He said the focus of the program was to bring GM retirees and UDM volunteers together with these students and work toward a common goal: Improving local neighborhoods, while developing the students’ career skills.

“As retirees, we look forward to joining forces with current company leaders as a unified GM to effect meaningful change,” DiGiovanni said. “But most of all, we want this program to be rewarding, fun and life-changing for the students.”

DiGiovanni said the students will manage all aspects of their team projects — the budgeting, planning and implementation — and participate in life skill sessions developed by Junior Achievement, a non-profit youth organization that has mastered programs to help the students advance in life and in the development of their future careers.

He said the program was designed to give the students an opportunity to experience giving back to the community, while working 30 hours a week for a company like GM.

“You cannot have economic success in this region without the success of communities and families,” said Michael J. Brennan, president and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “Success depends, in part, on good corporate citizenship.

“GM demonstrates this principle time and again. Increasingly, as others step up, this creates a model and more will follow. That’s what you are starting to see here with this exciting pilot internship program.”

The students will have opportunities to visit GM’s Design Center, the GM Heritage Center, and the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant. At the end of the program, students will visit UDM’s campus to present their finished service projects to Reuss and the other participants.

In a tour to the GM Design Center, DiGiovanni said, the students will have a chance to shape clay, experience how designers sculpt prototypes from a block of clay and essentially get hands-on experience with that aspect of that job. He said this experience may influence them to pursue an automotive career.

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at