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October 2, 2013

UDM fencer, Fraser resident, receives chance to make documentary

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Pictured is University of Detroit Mercy fencer Paige Zmudczynski, left, with General Motors Executive Vice President and President, North America, Mark Reuss. Zmudczynski was selected to make a documentary video for a GM program called “Student Corps.”

University of Detroit Mercy senior Paige Zmudczynski has made the most of her college experience.

Aside from being a co-captain on the Titans’ fencing team, Zmudczynski, who is majoring in communications, was selected to make a documentary video for a General Motors program called Student Corps.

Student Corps is a program in which students from 11 high schools were given the task of designing a project to benefit their community.

Having the opportunity to be a part of the fencing team since her freshman year, in addition to her work with Student Corps, has helped to give Zmudczynski, whose hometown is Fraser, some rich experiences during her time at UDM.

“It’s really great to have (an) internship like this — to this magnitude,” she said. “It means a lot to me that I was picked as part of the internship and to help better (the) city I love. It’s been fun networking with not only GM retirees, but with the kids — the kids were phenomenal. I wouldn’t have the same friends I do if I didn’t have fencing. It’s made my college experience better.”

Examples of projects students have taken up include cleaning parks and helping to beautify areas within their community. According to a release, projects were designed with guidance from GM retirees and top-level executives, along with a group of 11 student mentors from UDM, which included men’s soccer player Matt Ybarra and women’s lacrosse player Annie Mendoza.

GM also provided the tools and equipment for the inaugural project, which took place over the summer.

GM commissioned UDM Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Jason Roche to produce a video documentary of the project. Zmudczynski, who is a graduate of Macomb Dakota High School, has been a student in classes taught by Roche and was selected to film the daily tasks of students from three of the schools involved in the project (Hamtramck, Madison Heights Madison and Warren Lincoln). Three other UDM students were chosen to film at other locations.

“It’s (about) not only how the city and community changes, but how these kids have changed, as well,” Zmudczynski said of the focus of the project. “Something small (like) beautifying a park can really impact a community. That’s what the main focus is — try to shine Detroit in a better light.”

Roche was impressed with Zmudczynski’s contribution to the project.

“Paige was just fantastic,” he said. “She was good coming in, but she’s better afterwards. Hers were probably the schools I visited the most. … She’s very dependable. She’s got a very good eye. She developed over the summer, too, much better skills talking and interacting with the kids and getting (them) to open up. Anytime I was there and she wasn’t, they would be asking, ‘Where’s Paige?’ They loved her.”

Aside from being a paid internship, another benefit of being part of the project was the networking opportunities it provided for Zmudczynski, who wants to go into public relations work after graduation.

“I can network with the GM people,” she said. “I actually interview Mark Reuss, who’s the president of North American GM. I can’t ask for help with a job or anything, but it’s a step. I’m aware of how GM works and what they’re looking for.”

Zmudczynski thinks the experience of working with Student Corps is one that could stay with her for many years. Having the chance to be a part of it has meant something to her, and she expressed excitement about other opportunities that may be yet to come.

“I’m pretty excited,” she said. “The same professor (Roche) who’s working with me is trying to get me into more internships. It’s nice knowing someone’s rooting for me. I think I have a chance to get a good job with all the networking, internships and fencing.”

The documentary is expected to be complete by Thanksgiving.