By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT (WWJ) – General Motors is giving 110 Detroit-area high school students paid internships this summer and calling back retirees, as the company debuts the GM Student Corps.

The students will design and work on projects to improve area neighborhoods. They will work with volunteers from the company, and about 60 retirees that will come back to help guide this effort.

General Motors will pay for the cost of the program, and provide vehicles for transportation.

“Improving the quality of life in our communities means more than writing a check,” said Reuss. “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 students will receive minimum wage. GM will pay the retirees, but Reuss expects most of them to turn that money over to charity.

Eleven United Way Network of Excellence schools will participate in the GM Student Corps: Central Collegiate Academy, Detroit Public Schools Cody Campus, East Detroit High School, Hamtramck High School, Harper Woods High School, Henry Ford High School, Madison High School, Melvindale High School, Detroit Public Schools Osborn Campus, River Rouge High School and Van Dyke Lincoln High School.

“It gave me a change to, like, really involve myself with the community because of all the projects we were doing,” said East Detroit High Junior Shavona Edwards. “It’s really good for my school, and it’s just something that I’m really interested in.”

GM says the teams are already together and choosing their projects. Some examples might include painting and cleanups at local parks, planting and tending a community garden, setting up food banks or meal programs and others. Life skills sessions include career development, banking and finance, and health and safety.

The projects will start in mid-June and continue through the summer.

Students will also get some work place experience and educational opportunities at Focus: HOPE, Junior Achievement “Financial Park,” the GM Design Center and GM Heritage Center, the GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant and the UDM campus.

“It will look really good on a resume for any future job or career,” said Phillip Becker, a junior at East Detroit High School.

Retired GM Mike DiGiovanni, who now teaches at the University of Detroit Mercy, is coming back to lead the program.

“As retirees, we look forward to joining forces with current company leaders as a unified GM to effect meaningful change in Detroit,” said DiGiovanni, who grew up on the city’s west side. “But most of all, we want this program to be rewarding, fun and life-changing for the students.”.

When retiree Larry Heis got the call from Mike DiGiovanni, inviting him to be a part of this program, he said it was something he couldn’t turn down. He said he’s getting a lot from working with young people.

“I’m gonna learn a lot more from them than they learn from me,” he said. “These kids are so bright and so full of energy. It’s just life-invigorating to be around them.”

Retiree Myron Lick said he jumped at the chance to help out with the program.

“I would hope we could share with them some of our insights from several years of working at GM. I know we’ll learn a lot from them.”

For GM North America President Mark Reuss, this is not only an investment in the city they call home, it’s a way to get a head start on recruiting the work force of the future. That, Reuss says, is not an easy task.

“It’s scary,” he said. “If left unattended and we do nothing, there are a lot of things that would not be good, because our work force is aging. We need really good replacement workers for everybody.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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