Midland youth take action

By Rachel Beard & Scott Baysspeak up & staff writer

In order to meet certain college entry requirements, many high school students gather volunteer hours and leadership experience through school programs, such as Key Club or NHS. Some students, though, gather this experience through a program called MCYAC, or the Midland County Youth Action Council.

“Basically, we volunteer and then vote on grants,” senior Rob Malecki said. “Members get a really fun experience along with something that looks really good on the college application. And they get new friends and new leadership experience. It’s a leadership experience that you most likely won’t be able to find anywhere else within Midland community.”

While their participation can look impressive on a resume, members of MCYAC, also known as YACs, strive to make a difference in their community as well.

“I wanted to help my community, and this was the perfect way to do it,” senior Mallory Ginis said.

Members of MCYAC are responsible for allocating donated money to nonprofit youth-related organizations that are looking for grants.

“We’re a philanthropic group,” senior Kimmy Dean said. “We grant money to programs that help kids.”

Organizations can apply for grants through the Midland Area Community Foundation website. The grant money comes from the Council of Michigan Foundations, a state-wide nonprofit group which provides grant money for nearly 350 programs in Michigan like MCYAC.

“We give grants to different organizations,” Ginis said. “Like The Rock, the ESA, family centers.”

Since its founding, MCYAC has been involved in a variety of activities around Midland County.

“Recently, we donated to Young Life, which helps pregnant women in high schools,” Dean said. “We also did Midnight on Main.”

MCYAC also recently gave a grant to another organization.

“We actually donated to the Great Lakes Safety Training Center,” Ginis said. “They wrote a grant proposal for a laser fire extinguisher. It simulates the real thing, so people who take the class can figure out how to use one.”

There are, however, certain requirements organizations have to meet in order to receive a grant.

“It’s organizations that are doing something for the first time, they have to be doing this for the very first time, and it has to be for the benefit of the community, as opposed to just a few people,” Malecki said. “That’s mostly it. We sometimes do it for a lot of churches and
The Rock, which is like a family center that a bunch of kids go to. We’ll help them out with a lot of their projects, but it has to be something new. It can’t be just giving money to keep something going.”

Aside from awarding grants, MCYAC members also organize charitable events in Midland County.

“We always do a project in our community through schools,” Dean said. “This year, it’s the Kinetic Effect.”

Kinetic Effect will be an event centered on a poetry group.

“Currently, we’re working on bringing a slam poetry group, known as Speaking Forward to Creative 360,” Malecki said. “They’ll be putting on a show around late April. It’s basically these two people who go up on a stage and recite this intense, passionate poetry they’ve written. It’s a really thought-provoking and interesting experience. And we’re bringing it to Midland.”

When it comes to events like Kinetic Effect, MCYAC members are responsible for organizing everything from the snacks to the decorations to the number of chairs.

“We’re planning on making people aware of it,” senior Brittany Searle said. “These people have been through hard times, and the poems express their hard experiences.”

Members of MCYAC also participate in volunteer opportunities, such as buying Sharing Tree gifts and ringing bells for the Salvation Army.

“We do service in community fundraisers,” Searle said. “It’s good for the community.”

YACs meet at the Midland Area Community Foundation building on Thursday nights. On March 15, MCYAC held a reading night.

“We’re actually meeting at Eastlawn, where we’re reading with the kindergartners,” Ginis said. All of the kindergartners involved were each given four books to keep.

Any Midland County middle or high school student can join MCYAC by printing out an application from the Midland Area Community Foundation website and mailing it in.

“You join by attending three meetings and then fill out a membership form and you’ll be officially a member,” Malecki said. “The only other requirement is that you participate in the meetings.”

While MCYAC helps the community, it also provides opportunities to those involved in the organization.

“I like making a difference,” Dean said. “I’m not usually given the opportunity to give $5,000 to something I really care about. After we give the money, a lot of times we’ll get letters telling us how much of a difference we’ve made.”

MCYAC has left a lasting effect on many of its members.

“It’s a unique volunteer opportunity where in the youth actually get to have a say, it’s not just a parent or an adult-run organization, and it’s not even officer-run,” Malecki said. “It’s more or less everyone votes on everything and gets a fair say. That’s what got me into really staying with it.”

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