Ana Philips was able to showcase her artistic talents while an intern with the Village of Capac. She transformed what had been blank DPW garage doors into eye-catching murals.
Four County Community Foundation’s Return to Earn internship program helped connect seven area college students with local businesses and government agencies in the summer of 2023.
Return to Earn is a talent retention initiative, launched in 2022, that facilitates quality, paid summer internships for college students in or near their hometowns. It gives college students the chance to both build their resume and earn a paycheck while also creating potential avenues for them to return to those communities after completing their college or university studies and find a job in their field.
The foundation also supports both interns and participating businesses by helping cover up to 50 percent of the interns’ salary.
Here’s a snapshot of what those 2023 Return to Earn interns accomplished and learned—
Ana Phillips of Armada has literally made her mark in Capac this summer. A 2020 graduate of International Academy East and current student at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Ana concluded her time with the Village of Capac designing and painting a mural on each of the Department of Public Work’s garage doors. Each was one unique but had a theme related to the village and surrounding area.
Ana said she’s grateful for the opportunity to create her first large scale art project in the form of the door murals.
She also played a major role in helping Village Manager Travis Youatt get a new farmer’s market up and running. Communicating with vendors, including approaching them at other markets and inviting them to come to Capac, helped Ana gain important interpersonal skills.
Travis said the launch of the village’s farmers marker would not have happened without Ana’s determination and dedication. She was the obvious choice for designing flyers and banners to promote the market as well.
“The Village benefited greatly from Ana joining our team through our collaboration with Four County Community Foundation. We wish Ana the best and know she will succeed highly in her future endeavors,” Travis added.
Reagan Roszczewski’s experience at the Oxford Downtown Development Authority (DDA) made her confident that she’s on the right track at Ferris State University where she’s majoring in marketing and minoring in professional sales.
Having the opportunity visit DDA businesses and sell sponsorships for upcoming DDA-hosted events was one of Reagan’s favorite tasks during her internship.
“I liked being able to venture out of the office and meet new people,” the 2020 Imlay City graduate said.
She completed a myriad of other tasks too including creating a business directory and other guides and promotional materials, making updates to the DDA’s website and assisting with the set up for special events like outdoor concerts. She collaborated with fellow Return to Earn intern Abigail Bayley on Stronger Together events that the Oxford and Lake Orion DDA’s regularly team up for. Reagan also got a taste for office management duties too when she spent time sorting and itemizing DDA supplies, creating an inventory list and learned the ins and outs of budgeting and bill coding.
Kelly Westbrook, the DDA’s Executive Director, said she and Kimberly Smith, the DDA’s Project and Media Coordinator, believe the impact of Reagan’s work will be felt in the months to come.
“We feel like we’re so much further ahead as compared to last year in terms of being ready for fall events,” she said.
Kelly added that DDA members noticed and appreciated Reagan’s contributions during her time in Oxford.
“We got great feedback from our business owners on Reagan and the work she did.”
Reagan said she would encourage fellow college students to consider a summer internship.
“You don’t dread coming to work every day and the work is so diversified. Plus, it’s a good resume builder,” she said.
Romeo’s Cameron Joseph spent his summer internship with the Village of Almont where the college football player tackled a number of projects.
A surgery sidelined Cameron from doing physical work at the outset so he started his time in Almont doing things like analyzing bills and spending patterns, crunching numbers on the impact of new tax levies and got familiar with the PASER (Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating) program.
In July, Cameron staring working with village’s Department of Public Works staff. Most notably, he helped launch a new work order program and trained village staff on how to use it. He also spent time at the village’s Waste Water Treatment Plant where he crunched numbers to gauge the effectiveness of a recent sewer relining project.
“Cameron was an outstanding contributor to the projects he’s been assigned,” said Almont Village Manager David Trent.
Cameron said he came away from the internship with a better understanding of how municipalities work and appreciated the chance to work in various village departments. Along the way he gained some valuable time management skills.
“I love Michigan and southeast Michigan and I’m grateful that 4CCF offers this program. I had the chance to meet new people in the community and made connections in an area that I love so much,” Cameron said.
Like the other interns, Abby Bayley had the chance to explore a wide range of job duties during her time with the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority.
The 2022 Oxford High School graduate who’s studying marketing at Oakland University helped Lake Orion businesses register their names and products in the Shop Oakland Main Streets e-commerce directory; managed the DDA’s social media channels, crafted newsletters for business members and the general public; wrote press releases and created monthly reports for the DDA board.
Away from her desk, Abby served as the master of ceremonies for the Lake Orion Live summer concert series, gave a handful of presentations and helped coordinate a fun Story Walk promotion with the Orion Township Public Library that encouraged young readers and their families to find pages from the book “Harold Finds a Voice” posted in business windows.
“I had no idea what to expect but it was definitely a good experience,” Abby said.
As for the skills she developed during the internship, Abby counts press release writing, working with businesses and getting familiar with computer programs, like Canva and Excel.
Molly Wing LaLone, the DDA’s Executive Director, had high praise for Abby calling her a “superstar” who credited the intern for being a valuable problem solver. She said she’s a big believer that internships play a key role in preparing students for career success and was pleased the Lake Orion DDA could offer that opportunity to Abby.
Emma Rose Frangedakis, a 2022 graduate of Capac High School, is a pre-law student at Michigan State University and for her first college summer break, she was able to secure an internship in her hometown with Capac attorney Beverly Wheelihan.
Emma Rose spent her time doing research for cases, assembled trial notebooks, wrote letters to clients, drafted pleadings for court and contacted clients over the phone for scheduling purposes. She also accompanied Beverly to court where she was able to observe hearings and jury selections and was able to enter the chambers of a visiting judge in Sanilac County. Although she participated in Mock Trial as a high school student, it was Emma Rose’s first time in a courtroom when official business was being conducted.
“I learned how to be more detail-oriented and picked up better communication skills by making phone calls and sending emails to clients,” Emma Rose said of the skills she honed.
Beverly feels it’s crucial for aspiring attorneys to spend time networking and connecting with mentors in the legal field so they can begin to understand the realities of practicing law which can include a lot after hours work and phone calls from frantic clients.
Overall, Beverly says she’s an ardent believer in the value of internships.
“They give students a chance to grow and be ‘work ready’ when it’s time to graduate,” she said.
“I’m grateful to the foundation for making the Return to Earn program available to students.”
Samuel Howard of Lapeer, who’s currently a student at Eastern Michigan University, spent his summer learning the ins and outs of municipal government at Imlay City’s City Hall. Sam lent a hand with everyday tasks in the city office included helping residents pay bills, filing papers and assisting with bookkeeping matters. He particularly enjoyed the chance to shadow each of the city’s department heads.
“Although I enjoyed all of my time with each department, the one that stands out the most is my day with our Chief of Police,” Sam said.
“I enjoyed getting to tour the police station and learn some of the laws governing them as well as getting the chance to ride along with the police chief on a patrol and see how our officers help protect and serve the city.”
Dawn Sawicki-Franz, Imlay City’s Clerk/Treasurer, said city employees appreciated Sam’s willingness to identify challenges and find solutions to address them.
“He has taken on many projects here at the City of Imlay City and succeeded at each with the guidance of the staff,” Dawn said.
Sam feels that his internship experience has helped solidify his interest in local government and he’ll continue working towards his goal of becoming a city manager.
“By experiencing the administrative side of city government, this internship has also helped inform what I believe my next steps should be to get to the city manager position.”
Samuel believes there are multiple benefits to interning close to home—something that makes 4CCF’s Return to Earn program unique.
“This program is great because it allows you to serve in or near the communities in which you live and have spent a large amount of time. Not only can this be an advantage as you may know more about the community you’re serving in, it can also allow you to be more immersed in the community and what it has to offer,” Samuel said.
“I think that being able to serve in this internship and being close to home has not only expanded my knowledge of local government but it has also allowed me to be more involved in the community while living at home and spending time with family.”
Andrew Pries, a recent Romeo grad, gained new skills and experiences as an intern at Syenergy Engineering in Rochester Hills.
Syenergy’s Chris Wasinski said Andrew spent his time on several projects including the installation and configuration of a security camera system at Syenergy’s facility that was integrated to a building automation system. Chris reports that Andrew also created time reports that allow Syenergy’s Project Managers to ensure the proper time is being applied to each of their construction projects.
“Andrew proved himself more than equal to each of the tasks. He participated in meetings with subject matter experts and asked intelligent questions based on his own experiences and genuine curiosity,” Chris said.
“He also learned a thing or two about how to handle a hammer drill and caulk gun.”
Chris said Andrew was a pleasure to train and work and he hopes the intern will consider continuing with Syenergy Engineering in the future.
For more information about the Return to Earn internship program, including those students and businesses interested in participating in the 2024 session, contact Kathy Dickens at (810) 798-0909 or firstname.lastname@example.org.