Things to Do in Genesee County, MI, YouthQuest PhotoFunding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation supports vital summer and afterschool programs in Genesee County

(FLINT, Mich. – July 14, 2016) Area children and teens can take advantage of year-round access to an abundance of high quality educational opportunities, thanks to more than $4 million in funding announced today by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

The grants are supporting academic, enrichment and youth employment programs this summer, and they will help sustain local afterschool programs in the coming school year. Each program also will boost efforts to help link children and families with resources and services in the wake of Flint’s water crisis.

The grants are:

  • $3.1 million to support YouthQuest, a comprehensive afterschool program that provides educational, enrichment and physical fitness opportunities for more than 2,000 students in grades K-12. The program is offered free of charge at all schools in the Flint Community Schools (FCS) district, as well as three other local schools. YouthQuest also serves about 1,000 students each summer through seasonal programming.
  • $825,000 for the Summer Youth Initiative (SYI), which will help more than 500 high school students find employment at area businesses and nonprofit organizations this summer, and TeenQuest, a youth leadership and pre-employment training program. SYI and TeenQuest are available to all Genesee County students ages 14 to 19.
  • $87,000 for the Summer Tot Lot Program. For more than 60 years, this five-week summer program has been helping 4- and 5-year-old children in the FCS district prepare for their first year of school.

YouthQuest, SYI and TeenQuest are administered by the Genesee Area Focus Fund, a supporting organization of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. Tot Lot is an initiative of FCS. Mott is a longtime funder of all four programs.

The grants reflect the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to increasing access to quality education for area children and their families, said Mott President Ridgway H. White. They also are part of the Foundation’s recent pledge of up to $50 million over one year — as much as $100 million over five years — to help Flint recover and rise from the water crisis.

“Summer may be here, but there’s no vacation from learning,” said White. “We want to see every young person in Flint and Genesee County succeed in school, work and life, and we believe that now, more than ever, year-round academic, recreational and enrichment opportunities are essential to providing our kids with the tools and experiences they need to achieve that success.”

Helping students along that path is fundamental to the YouthQuest model, says Chamber CEO Tim Herman. The program offers research-based afterschool and summer activities that reinforce academic learning, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and the arts, as well as activities that promote physical fitness, youth leadership and volunteerism.

To support the community’s response to the water crisis, Herman notes that YouthQuest staff will receive training on how to identify possible health, developmental and behavioral issues related to lead exposure. Over the coming school year, the program also will help families connect with information and services intended to mitigate the effects of lead exposure, and YouthQuest participants will launch neighborhood recycling programs to help dispose of the plastic water bottles distributed throughout the community.

TeenQuest helps young people learn employment basics, such as teamwork, business etiquette, goal-setting and conflict resolution, and SYI provides them with opportunities to hone those skills in the workplace as they build their résumés. This year, SYI participants also will learn about the importance of good nutrition in mitigating the effects of lead exposure. Many will work with local nonprofit agencies to plant community gardens, distribute nutritious food to residents and raise community awareness about healthy eating.

“Many of the students in our afterschool and summer programs have been impacted by the water crisis in one way or another,” said Herman. “The Mott grants allow us to continue delivering quality programming that meets the unique needs of these children and their families, while also helping our young people to get involved in the recovery effort and contribute to moving Flint forward.”

SYI participants also are joining forces this summer with the FCS’ Tot Lot Program and other initiatives to help support younger children who may have been exposed to lead. Created in 1955, the Tot Lot program uses classroom instruction, field trips and other activities to help area preschoolers develop the key academic and social skills they’ll need as they begin kindergarten. Staff also help parents explore strategies to support their children’s learning and strengthen literacy in the home.

“We want all of our students to have a strong foundation as they start school and begin their educational journey,” said Bilal Tawab, FCS superintendent. “Helping families access the academic, social and health supports that put their children on a successful educational pathway has always been at the heart of the Tot Lot program, and today it’s one of many ways the community is working to cultivate a future of hope for all Flint kids.”