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Jonathan Blanchard ‘16 was exposed to Kettering University at an early age. Through growing up in Flint, workshops in middle school and the Academically Interested Minds (AIM) program in high school, Kettering always seemed like the perfect fit for him.

And he’s never regretted his decision to attend Kettering. In fact, the decision led him to find his true passion in life and turn it into a career. After initially majoring in Electrical Engineering and completing two related co-ops, Blanchard took a leap of faith and switched his major to Business with a goal of working in education..

Popovich began sending the cookies in 2010 when a column was added to the Girl Scouts’ order form for cookies that asked buyers if they would like to donate to send cookies to soldiers. She quickly began reaching out to local businesses to see if they would like to participate, and since that time she has sent nearly 10,000 boxes of cookies overseas.

“I’m so glad I did it. I would never regret it. It’s a life-changing decision,” Blanchard said. “I get to get that experience in and be more involved in my passion.”

It was that boldness and out-of-the-box thinking that led Blanchard to creating his own co-op opportunity to fit his new career path. Blanchard had volunteered at Genesee STEM Academy, a K-7 charter school in Flint, in the past and saw great potential there and wanted to be a part of it.

“I just went up to the principal and told them what I could do for the school,” he said. “My mentor used to tell me that if you want something then create it. There’s a lot of opportunity out there.”

Blanchard helps with academic advancement, marketing, recruitment, funding for new projects and community outreach.

His hope is to bring more opportunities and creativity to showing the students what STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is all about. Bringing robotics to the school and gardening projects are two recent initiatives he is working on.

“It’s just good for the kids to have a more broad perspective of STEM and getting the kids to see that there’s science, technology, engineering and math in pretty much everything in the world,” Blanchard said.

Blanchard’s co-op opportunity gave him the skills, knowledge and experience he needed to succeed after graduation. But more than that it helped him realize his ability to make an impact in the community.

“I found out exactly what business entails as a career and not just in the classroom. I learned to be ambitious and to follow your dreams. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative and put yourself out there,” he said. “Just working at the school has taught me how important it is to give back to the community, especially the youth. They are the next generation. I just try to make my impact. It’s bigger than we expect.”

Blanchard interacts with the students on a daily basis, serving as a sounding board for their frustrations and offering advice about their studies and life in general. He’s paying forward the mentoring skills and leadership skills he learned from another Kettering graduate. Marc Alexander '09 greatly influenced Blanchard's path and life choices, and he hopes to be able to do the same thing for others.

“He took me under his wing and mentored me. Ever since then I knew I wanted to make the impact he had on me for someone else,” he said. “It’s kind of a domino effect. That’s what I’m hoping to do. Make an impact on someone that will then make a bigger impact on the community.”

Blanchard has grown as a person every year he’s been at Kettering and with every co-op experience he’s had. His mentors has helped him figure out who he is and where he needs to go next. His communication skills and professional skills have grown dramatically thanks to his out-of-classroom work and experiences.

After graduation Blanchard hopes to work at the Genesee STEM Academy as a curriculum developer and also start an after-school program. The program would be a basketball STEM camp to teach the students that there’s more to playing basketball than the actual athletic portion of the game. He would teach that there’s also math and science involved.

Even though creating his own co-op might have been the path less traveled, it’s one Blanchard will never forget or regret

“The mentors that I’ve had throughout co-op have made a huge impact, helping me find out exactly where I fit in, helping me find my own path instead of trying to fit into someone else’s path, Blanchard said. “My favorite part is the impact I have on the kids. I just love it when they want to come to my office and talk. It makes me feel like I’m making real a difference. It’s heart warming

“That’s something I’m passionate about - making a difference, especially in the community I was raised in.”
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STEMLETICS
Co-op experience gives Kettering University student opportunity to make community impact
Blanchard, a Flint native, wants to be able to pair STEM education with basketball and other sports to teach kids that there is more to sports while also teaching them how to be healthy from a young age.)
By Sarah Schuch