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The University of Michigan’s Flint campus was awarded $1.2 million last month to support three programs: the Morris Hood, Jr. Educator Development (MHED) Program, the Select Student Support Services (4-S) Program and the Michigan College/University Partnership (MICUP) Program. Funded by the state of Michigan’s Martin Luther King, Jr. – César Chávez – Rosa Parks (KCP) Initiative with costs shared by the University, these programs will receive the grant money over a six-year period. The grants, approved by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, aim to support the economically disadvantaged college students served by these three programs to promote higher retention and graduation rates.

The three U-M Flint programs funded by the KCP Initiative each aim to improve student success and retention. MHED works to support disadvantaged K-12 students in teacher preparation programs, 4-S organizes services to support students experiencing academic or economic difficulties and MICUP aims to support transfer students — specifically those from Mott Community College and Muskegon Community College.

In addition to the three programs at U-M Flint, the KCP Initiative has implemented a number of other programs at Michigan colleges and universities — all aiming to help students with lower socioeconomic statuses complete their degrees and boost their careers.

4-S program manager John Girdwood helped U-M Flint write the grant proposals for the three programs this past summer. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Girdwood said he wanted the program to apply for all three grants because, as a Flint resident, he wants U-M Flint to have the resources and economic support to personalize their student support services.

“Our grant adds in social components and the personalization and the coaching and the college navigation,” Girdwood said. “We’ll be like, ‘Okay, are you a parent? Do you work? Are you (going to) take online classes or in person? Should you go full-time or part-time?’ And we’ll sit down and talk to that person, on a human level, about their life and help them navigate college in that way.”

Girdwood highlighted the MHED program, which he said ultimately aims to improve student retention and increase representation of those facing institutional barriers among teachers in Michigan classrooms. He added that MHED is necessary to address teacher shortages and resource disparities in Michigan public schools. 

“There’s teacher shortages and our schools are under-resourced,” Girdwood said. “Where do the teachers come from? How come they’re not U-M Flint (graduates? It tells you that (U-M Flint) could do a better job at preparing.”

The 4-S program hopes to support academically or economically disadvantaged U-M Flint students by organizing coordinated services across academic institutions, Girdwood explained.

“(The 4-S services) can be lumped into buckets like academic support, which is tutoring and academic advising and writing labs,” Girdwood said. “And then there’s a social component, so we have mentoring and networking opportunities for students. There’s more long-term services, like research and building social skills and financial literacy.”

MICUP program manager Jerry Alexander told The Daily the program is designed to improve transfer students’ experiences and increase their graduation rates. 

“Our goal is to expose students to the available resources on campus, build a community with the students, assist in class standing promotion, assist with a major declaration and ultimately graduate from the University,” Alexander said.

Both U-M Ann Arbor and U-M Dearborn have similar programs. Girdwood said he would like to see the campuses collaborate to strengthen their respective programs.

“Ann Arbor probably has some stuff going on program-wise that we could replicate, and we probably have some stuff in here that they might not be doing,” Girdwood said. “I think what you’re going to see is three campuses who do this kind of work, hopefully, collaborate a lot more. That’s my vision.”

U-M Flint sophomore Reese Robinson is a student in the KCP-funded programs and works in the Office of Educational Initiatives. Robinson told The Daily that the money provided by the grants allows KCP scholars to focus on their academics rather than their finances.

“These funds oftentimes are the difference between some of my counterparts staying in school or not,” Robinson said. “The security that the KCP program provides with these funds allows us to not have to worry or stress about where that money will come from or collect debt.”

Daily News Contributors Eva Bard and Michelle Liao can be reached at and