Students from First Ward Community Center seek to “Make Saginaw Great”

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“Make Saginaw Great” was the idea behind a ten-week program funded by Vice Provost Josh Ode, Mamie Thorns, the Zahnow Library and the department of sociology that brought students from the First Ward Community Center in Saginaw to SVSU.

Professor of sociology Dawn Hinton said the First Ward receives a grant through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that employs students to clean up parks and assist the community.

“As a part of this, I had a conversation with Rob Brown who is directing the First Ward program about some of the ideas about what they could do differently this year,” she said. “His idea was figuring out how we could make Saginaw great. We talked about a number of ideas and we landed on this project.”

She said the students were divided into five groups, which included education, transportation and civic involvement, and were told to use SVSU’s computer labs and classrooms to develop a plan that would stimulate growth and development in Saginaw.

Over the course of five visits, Hinton said the students looked at articles and data as it related to the city of Saginaw.

“So, what’s happening to Saginaw in terms of transportation?” she said. “What kinds do people use? What happens in terms of housing? The idea was to bring all of that stuff together, develop a PowerPoint, and then demonstrate a knowledge of those ideas.”

Hinton said students exceeded expectations.

“We often underestimate the ability of our young-folks, but I think once they’re challenged they can do the work,” Hinton said. “We are making sure that we are not only rewarding them for the cleanup effort, but we are also rewarding them for thinking creatively about how one can improve our own social environment.”

A presentation was given on Wednesday, Aug. 17, to show what each group had accomplished.

DNR Case Manager Shavonda Burton said the 15-18 year-old students of First Ward were empowered by the objective, and the presentation allowed each group to showcase their ideas.

“The event is about celebrating the children who have worked hard over the last couple of weeks,” she said.
“They’ve come to SVSU weekly and worked with Hinton to find a way to make Saginaw great.”

First Ward Community Center has been open for 85 years and offers a variety of programs from a summer day camp to both STEAM and LACER programs.

Burton said First Ward supports many different people from the young to the old and their mission is to provide resources to individuals to make a positive difference.

“We help in whatever capacity we can,” she said. “Whether it’s helping them with bills, a day-to-day lunch café that is open to whoever, or an afterschool program, where we pick up the kids, take them to the agency, feed them and offer homework assistance.”

Burton said this program has offered students a chance to enjoy the fun aspects of work, aid the community and learn a valuable lesson.

“The ability to be young and still make a difference is something very important that they take from this,” she said.

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