By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT (WWJ) – It’s been a fascinating summer for 110 area high school students, who are spending the summer as part of a new project called the General Motors Youth Corps. They are paid minimum wage to clean up parts of the city that are starved for attention.

“I got a job now,” said Cody High Junior Martin Brooks. “I can be something instead of nothing. It’s a great experience.”

Martin, along with Cody Senior Jameel Harris, is part of a team working in the neighborhood around the school. They’ve been clearing brush away from sidewalks that had become impassable, and boarding up abandoned buildings.

“You start off small,” said Harris. “We started off with that one house, and now we’ve got this whole strip done.”

The work will never be finished, says GM retiree Dawin Wright. But, the program is also about teaching the young people work skills they may not have learned elsewhere.

“Some of the things that I grew up with almost knowing as being intuitive, or just things that I knew, they aren’t covered and done with these students as much.”

Skills as simple as showing up on time, and being ready to work, and learning how to cope with having some cash in their pockets, in many cases, for the first time.

“We had a very interesting lesson,” said Wright. “It’s called ‘No.”

Wright said he wanted to make sure the students were ready for their first paycheck, and the request for money that they would soon get from friends.

“There will be more people making requests for those resources than you’ll ever have resources.”

Wright is one of sixty GM retirees who volunteered to help. There are similar teams in neighborhoods throughout the area. They will be working until August 24th.

But the mentors and students are building long-term relationships. Wright expects to maintain contact with many of the students for years to come.

Brandon Ruther, who’s heading into his senior year at Cody, is already thinking long-term, saying a summer in the GM Student Corps could lead to a lifetime at General Motors.

“Since I want to be a mechanical engineer, I think it’s the greatest experience ever,” said Ruther. “Because when I graduate Michigan State with that Mechanical Engineer Degree, first thing I’m going to is General Motors.”

While GM is also hoping to make connections with future employees, the Student Corps is about more than just recruiting new engineers. It’s about giving young people something productive to do during the summer…in many cases for the first time.

Cody Junior Martin Brooks says clearing brush in the hot summer sun still beats the alternative.

“It would have been lazy, boring, nothing to do. Just stay in the house all day, text and playing video games, being lazy.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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