Community Choice Credit Union holds an annual luncheon to recognize its scholarship recipients.

Community Choice Credit Union holds an annual luncheon to recognize its scholarship recipients.

Photo provided by Scott Young, Community Choice Credit Union

Scholarship, mini-grant opportunities available

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published January 24, 2020

METRO DETROIT — High school students planning to attend college or a vocational trade school are encouraged to look into scholarship opportunities from two local credit unions.

Community Choice Foundation, headquartered in Farmington Hills and part of Community Choice Credit Union, announced an expansion of its annual scholarship program to include continuing education and skilled trade opportunities. Community Choice Foundation awards $100,000 in scholarships annually. The foundation has awarded more than $1.1 million to date.

The scholarship expansion is to support the various educational paths that students in Michigan can pursue, while supporting Michigan’s investment in filling skilled trade jobs.

“In 2008, people were losing their jobs. There were so many people moving out of Michigan,” said Jeremy Cybulski, Community Choice Credit Union community engagement manager. The thought was, “How can we help keep some of that talent here in Michigan?”

After conducting research, foundation members added the continuing education and skilled trade scholarships. The technical/skilled trades category is open to students pursuing jobs as machinists, tool and die makers, mechanics, electricians and much more.

The continuing education scholarships are for students returning to college, such as for a master’s degree, a teacher seeking certification, or someone who wants to enroll in college after being out of school for many years.

Community Choice will grant 15 scholarships of $5,000 each to graduating high school seniors who plan to pursue a degree from a Michigan college or university. In addition, four $2,500 skilled trades scholarships are offered and six $2,500 continuing education ones.

To be eligible for a high school graduation or continuing education scholarship, students must have a 3.0 GPA. The skilled trades applicants must have a 2.5 GPA or a GED test score equivalent. Last year, the foundation received 820 submissions, and just 20 were awarded.

“I don’t want that to deter anybody from trying to apply,” Cybulski said, encouraging all students to apply. “Considering the overwhelming cost of education, it could save you a significant amount of money in the long run.”

Applications are available online at The deadline is Feb. 28, and the application includes an essay question. While there are minimal requirements to qualify for a scholarship, membership at Community Choice Credit Union is not one of them.

Michigan Schools & Government Credit Union, or MSGCU, is offering more than $106,000 in scholarships this year. Non-MSGCU members can apply. If they win, they are asked to become members. Anyone who lives, works or worships in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is eligible to be a member.

MSGCU Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Ann Jones said the credit union is looking for well-rounded individuals to award with scholarships. Another aspect includes adopting the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.”

The credit union, based in Clinton Township, has six different scholarships. Students can apply for more than one scholarship, but only are eligible to receive one grant. The Educational Solutions Scholarship is for high school seniors planning to attend a two- or four-year college or university. Eighteen $2,500 scholarships are offered.

College students studying education or high school seniors with plans to study education in college can apply for the Larry Swantek Educational Studies Scholarship. Four $2,500 scholarships are available. Swantek, known as a passionate educator who taught for 25 years, is a former MSGCU board member.

Four $2,500 Educator Advantage Scholarships are for certified educators and administrators of early childhood, primary, secondary and post-secondary schools continuing their education.

The William Cayen Skilled Trades Scholarship — two $2,500 scholarships — is for students pursuing a skilled trades certificate in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne counties. Cayen is the current MSGCU board chairman and, according to Jones, has a “long history in teaching.” This award was established in 2019.

The Rudolph Heino High School Scholarship is for high school seniors who incorporate the MSGCU philosophy of “people helping people.” Five $2,000 scholarships are offered. The scholarship is named after Heino, a longtime credit union board member who died.

The MSGCU scholarship program was established in 2005. MSGCU holds an annual luncheon to recognize its recipients, family members and board members.

“We like to bring everyone together,” Jones said. “This is one of our favorite events. We recognize each person individually and talk about their individual contributions. It’s a fun, warm event. Sometimes there’s tears.”

MSGCU scholarship details and online applications can be found at The deadline to apply is Feb. 28.

MSGCU also offers the Stephen Thomas First Responder Scholarship ($2,000) to 12 graduates who attend the police and fire academies at Macomb Community College, Oakland Community College and Schoolcraft College. Information on these scholarships is available through the academy program directors.

Mini-grants plant seeds  
The Michigan State University, or MSU, Extension is accepting submissions for its Southeast Michigan School Garden mini-grants. They are available to schools in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties. The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Feb. 24.

The mini-grants are open to K-12 private, charter and public schools. Early childhood sites, in-home day care centers, Head Start and other early education locations can apply, as can post-secondary schools for special needs students. The application must be submitted by an employee of the school affiliated with the garden.

Approximately 15 grants between $500 and $1,500 will be distributed. Funding is provided by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. The grants can be used from March 30 through March 29, 2021.

“We have two different tracks people can apply for,” said Kaitlin Wojciak, an MSU Extension community food system educator.

“Planning grants” help those who are in the beginning phases of creating a school garden with an action plan. “Implementation grants” help schools and early care and education sites that are ready to establish a school garden or will expand their school garden program. Implementation applicants must have a school garden team.

The garden preference is for edible items where students are exposed to fruits and vegetables, or for environmental purposes, or for gardens with native plants. Along with the funding, grantees will receive garden training and technical assistance.

“We’ll help people maintain it so their gardens can last a long time,” Wojciak said.

For more information, eligibility and requirements, visit systems/school-gardens/school-garden-mini-grants.