October 2, 2015

Saginaw Valley State University’s leadership development program for local high school students kicks off its 10th year

The Great Lakes Bay Youth Leadership Institute will welcome 96 new high school participants during the program’s 2015-16 orientation session Friday, Oct. 2, from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on SVSU’s campus.

Organizers also plan to introduce an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields during this year’s program by inviting guest speakers from the region’s STEM-based employers.

Mamie T. Thorns, the program’s coordinator, said the regional — and nation-wide — need for STEM employees prompted the new initiative.

“Because that’s a great concern in the region, we wanted to make sure we’re in line with those regional goals,” said Thorns, SVSU’s special assistant to the president for Diversity Programs.

This year’s participants will work with several regional nonprofit organizations as part of the Great Lakes Bay Youth Leadership Institute. 

As part of a service learning project, students will team up with Saginaw-based Hidden Harvest, an organization that supplies food to soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters. Great Lakes Bay Youth Leadership Institute participants will help collect food for Hidden Harvest.

The program also will partner with Saginaw-based First Ward Community Center, which offers various services to the Saginaw community; Tri-City Links Inc., a volunteerservice organization for women; and the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, a Dow Chemical Co.-sponsored organization that works with local school officials to create engaging STEM opportunities for youths.

This group of Great Lakes Bay Youth Leadership Institute participants will receive leadership development throughout the fall and winter. A recognition dinner and celebration will cap off the program in April. 

Thorns has served as The Great Lakes Bay Youth Leadership Institute coordinator since its inaugural year.

“I knew the program would have lasting power,” Thorns said. 

“What I didn’t realize was the impact it would have on our region. There are students — whether they were high school students or undergraduates — who feel very proud and continue to be proud that they were part of this institute. We have community members asking how they can volunteer for the program.”

In total, 663 high school students have graduated from the program since its inception.