GM student interns gain skills, renovate courtyard

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published October 12, 2016

 Lincoln High School seniors Alexia Mefford, Tamera Bolton, Yousif Akoob, Jasmine Burns, Charles Page, Ariel Logan, Nate’tisha Swift and Tehreem Shafi created the school’s courtyard over the summer as students in the GM internship program. Not pictured are Aimee Riggs and Heaven Lipford.

Lincoln High School seniors Alexia Mefford, Tamera Bolton, Yousif Akoob, Jasmine Burns, Charles Page, Ariel Logan, Nate’tisha Swift and Tehreem Shafi created the school’s courtyard over the summer as students in the GM internship program. Not pictured are Aimee Riggs and Heaven Lipford.

Photo by Deb Jacques

WARREN — Ten Lincoln High School students who wanted to give back to the community did so this past summer when they participated in a General Motors internship program at school.

The students — all 12th-graders — met at Lincoln from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays June 21-Aug. 25 to complete various tasks that included renovating the school’s courtyard, volunteering at a local food shelter and doing yardwork for local senior citizens.

The GM internship program, known as the GM Student Corps, is part of the GM Foundation and was the brainchild of Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain. Every summer, the internship program is held at 13 schools in metro Detroit and Flint, with 10 students each. To apply, students are required to write an essay about what their community means to them and how they can make a difference.

School personnel select students for the program, and this year’s LHS GM internship students were Tehreem Shafi, Yousif Akoob, Ariel Logan, Nate’tisha Swift, Charles Page, Tamera Bolton, Alexia Mefford, Jasmine Burns, Aimee Riggs and Heaven Lipford. The students were paid interns working for GM. Page said everyone was excited when they found out they were selected for the program.

GM retirees Michael Zemmin, Louis Farinola and Sue Seaglund oversaw the program while working with the students each day. The students met with the GM retirees on April 21 for the first time to learn more about the program, how to put a project together and brainstorm project ideas. Also helping out was GM intern and University of Detroit Mercy student Jalil Dennis. The foursome taught the students various skills over the course of the program, including safety tips and how to use certain tools.

“We teach them how to put together a plan, how to organize it and map it out, and ways to get it done,” Farinola said. “We teach them how to work as a team and take on leadership opportunities. There is a great deal of satisfaction and gratitude. This is a chance to help them give back to the community.”

At the Sept. 19 Van Dyke Public Schools Board of Education meeting, Mefford and Lipford gave a presentation on the program. “Team Lincoln’s” biggest project was beautifying the school’s courtyard from a few bushes into an inviting space with benches, shrubs, mulch, lilac trees, rose bushes and more. For starters, they removed the old grass that was there and added all the new greenery.

“We had to take the bushes out,” Page said.

“We turned the soil over three times with a rototiller,” Akoob said.

Logan said the ground had to be leveled and then prepared for the shrubbery.

“We had to dig holes for the rose bushes,” Bolton said.

Team Lincoln even made benches for the enclosed yard.

“We took lumber and assembled it,” Mefford said. “We had to put the wood pieces together. We had to measure it out.”

The students also wanted to help the homeless and set aside two days this summer to volunteer at Gleaners Community Food Bank in Warren. According to Akoob’s statistics, the students bagged 11,250 pounds of food between the two days that fed 9,563 people.

And since the students have a soft spot in their hearts for senior citizens, they also offered their landscaping services with support from the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers. The students helped nine residents, who didn’t hide their emotions when Team Lincoln showed up.

“Some seniors started crying,” Akoob said. “It was really emotional.”

“It was rewarding,” Mefford said.

Several students admitted that they felt like giving up at times because it was such hard work, but Burns said the program taught her to persevere and stick it out.

“It felt good to make a difference,” Burns said.

“I enhanced my skills and my knowledge,” Akoob said. “I learned a lot from the GM employees.”

They also said they didn’t really know each other before summer, but that changed.

“We became friends,” Bolton said.

Along the way, the students learned the importance of budgeting their earnings and being on time.

“If you’re on time, you’re late,” Swift said. “If you’re early, you’re on time.”