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Sep. 12, 2019

MSU Interns Inspire a Community

The Michigan State University School of Social Work and the College of Social Science partnered with Flint community leaders to develop a new program called the Flint Community Initiative. The program, which was launched this summer, combines service learning and internship experience, and is open to upper undergraduate and graduate students from every major and college.

This innovative program is set apart by its emphasis on utilizing assets already present in Flint’s communities and amplifying their impact. According to Anna Maria Santiago, who led the collaborative effort, the mission of the initiative is to revitalize distressed areas and look at the assets of a community instead of the defecits. She explained that the main goal is to utilize and expand those assets in order to ensure a better future for that community. 

Students in the program were paired with leaders of nonprofit or civic organizations to work on one of five collaborative, community-driven projects. This summer, eight student interns from four different colleges at MSU contributed over 2,400 hours of service with Flint community partners.

Ben Hendrickson and Munzer Elsir were paired with the Asbury Community Development Corporation to work on the Flint Eastside Connecting Neighbors Project. They created and implemented surveys to identify the talents of Eastside neighborhood residents. They then created a database of the skills as a resource that highlights community assets with neighbors who are willing to help one another.

“After this project, I realized the importance of community strength,” reflected Hendrickson. “Focusing on existing assets and allowing residents to lead community development is much more effective than outside help. With the right opportunities, community members can lead the way.”

Adriyonna Fields and Alexis Smith completed their internship project with "Keep Genesee County Beautiful." They developed a resource guide of local talent to assist Flint Park Adopters with creating programming in the parks as well as created a survey instrument for monitoring park usage. 

When asked to give advice to a student interested in the Flint Community Initiative, Fields replied, “The learning for this course is a process of discovery. This course will give you the chance to develop your own reason and thought from personal experiences and the readings. You have to put more thought and effort into most of your responses rather than repeat what someone else says.”

Students and Flint community organizers interested in getting involved with the program are encouraged to learn more by visiting the program’s website or contact program coordinator and professor Monica Villarreal at

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