SIPI hosts alternative spring break college students; pre- and post-visit surveys show dramatic increase in positive Flint impressions

Media contact: Barbara Fornasiero, EAFocus Communications; 248-260-8466; barbara@eafocus.com

Flint, Mich. — March 31, 2017 — Social Impact Philanthropy and Investment (SIPI), a platform for change providing business and operational services to social enterprises and nonprofits, as well as implementation and administration of government programs, was pleased to host 87 students from ten colleges, universities and affiliate organizations throughout the country as part of a program known as Alternative Spring Break (ASB). ASB provides an opportunity for students to engage in organized community service projects throughout the country as an alternative to a traditional college break.

SIPI is located in the lower level of the rectory of St. Michael’s Catholic parish in Flint. The rectory, now known as the Firestone Center, was recently renovated to accommodate large overnight groups for retreats and events such as ASB. Students, who visited Flint throughout the month of March, hailed from schools including the University of Wisconsin, Marquette University, Virginia Tech, the University of Michigan and, for the first time this year, Lake Superior State, Purdue, Spelman College and Harris Stowe State University.

Each ASB day is broken into two volunteer activities. In the morning, students complete more task oriented work, such as cleaning, painting or re-organizing rooms. In the afternoon, students visit schools to assist teachers and mentor students. While in Flint, students worked with the St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center, Evergreen Community Development Initiative, Northridge Academy and Durant Turri Mott Elementary School.

A highlight of the week was introducing ASB students to Flint’s community leaders and influencers via evening dinners or gatherings. Guests included: Dr. Mona Hannah-Attisha, Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, Tony Lasher from the  American Red Cross, Adrian Walker from Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy, Curt Guyette, investigative journalist from the ACLU, Srs. Carol Weber, OP and Judy Blake from St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center, Dr. Marc Edwards from Virginia Tech, and Fr. Thomas Firestone from the Catholic Community of Flint.

SIPI President Jason Ball noted that ASB students were surveyed about their impressions of Flint prior to their arrival and again at week’s end. The results were dramatic.

“Before engaging with the Flint community, 70% of the students had a negative or neutral impression of Flint. At the end of the week, the perception of Flint flipped, with 80% of the students having a positive or very positive impression of the city,” Ball said.

For Dominique Washington, Spelman ’17, the experience was so meaningful she chose to return to Flint as a Diplomat Fellow this summer at Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy.

“Having the opportunity to immerse myself in Flint and witness the impactful initiatives aimed at bettering the city and its people was deeply inspiring. I saw an opportunity like no other; I could be an integral part of changing the narrative and encourage others like me to do the same,” Washington said.

For SIPI CEO and Flint native Steve Wolbert, ASB is personal. His father, Dave Wolbert, has hosted up to 40 ASB students in his Flint home for the past 8 years.

“Alternative Spring Break has been a part of my life since I was working at Michigan State University 11 years ago, and influenced my career decision to pursue opportunities in social enterprise and community engagement,” Wolbert said.  “It has special meaning to allow me to carry on the ASB tradition through my work at SIPI.”

About Social Impact Philanthropy and Investment (SIPI)

Flint, Mich.-based Social Impact Philanthropy and Investment (SIPI) was founded as a platform for change in 2015 to transform legacy cities into economic hubs of opportunity for all.  Working with social enterprises and nonprofits, SIPI’s services include operations, human resources, finance, data analysis, fundraising, contract negotiations, strategic planning, training and community development to help build self-sustaining organizations.  SIPI also implements and administers community-focused programs for local, state and federal agencies. Learn more at http://sipi.solutions/.

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