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May 21, 2018 - Fulfilling the promise

By JOHN MATUSZAK - HP Staff Writer

Exchange student has impressive academic, athletic college experience

ST. JOSEPH — Mateusz “Matt” Gibiec, a Rotary Club exchange student from Poland who spent his senior year at St. Joseph High School, left for college four years ago carrying with him the hopes and good wishes of the community.

He has more than justified that confidence, earning a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Lawrence Technological University with a 3.96 grade point average, excelling on the school’s soccer team and becoming a campus leader.

His parents, Janusz and Joanna, made their first trip to America this month to attend their son’s graduation.

“It’s been five years since Matt landed in Chicago and we are all so proud of him and happy for his parents,” said Jackie Huie, whose family hosted Gibiec as an exchange student and supported his dream to attend college in America. “No moment was more joyful than to see Matt hug his mom after receiving his college diploma.”

“Matt has been a shining example on the field and off the field with his work ethic and competitive nature,” said Will Dyer, his coach at the Southfield school who secured a full scholarship for Gibiec in 2014. “He is one of the smartest players I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching.”

Mateusz Gibiec

Mateusz "Matt" Gibiec, center, a former St. Joseph High School exchange student from Poland who graduated from college this month, enjoys a visit on the bluff with his parents, Joanna and Janusz, during their first trip to America. Gibiec defied the odds by securing a full scholarship to Lawrence Technical College, earning a degree in computer engineering with a 3.96 grade point average, and becoming a star of the school's soccer team.

It took a lot of hard work, said Gibiec, 21, who is staying this summer with the Huies in their St. Joseph home.

“It wasn’t easy, to be honest,” said Gibiec of his impressive record. Like other college students, he juggled class work, sports, internships and other student activities, pulling all-nighters to prepare for tests and presentations. At the same time, he endured the separation from his parents and the country and culture he grew up in.

Getting to the starting line for Gibiec wasn’t easy, either. After hearing about the Rotary Youth Exchange program from a cousin in Poland, Matt was put in touch with Deb Trapikas, with the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary Club, applied and received a spot. He attended classes at St. Joe High, played soccer and took classes at Lake Michigan College, earning his GED.

He fell in love with the country, the Huies and a host of other friends, and decided he wanted to attend college in the U.S.

“America is the land of opportunity. There are many more possibilities than in Europe,” he said.

Attending a university here meant securing his legal immigration status to be able to remain in the U.S., scrambling to complete his college prep work and finding a school where he could continue to play soccer and study engineering, as well as one that could provide the necessary financial support.

Many people pitched in with preparing the groundwork, including high school guidance counselor, Tracy Wagner.

“Every time Matt heard someone say, ‘That’s just not possible, or that’s not how we do things’, he was persistent in finding a way to make things happen anyway,” Wagner said.

And, of course, the Huies were in his corner all the way and became his visa sponsors.

“I owe them,” said Gibiec of the Huies and their children, who became his second family. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to pay back, but let me tell you, I’ll definitely try.”

They helped him find Lawrence University, near Detroit, where Dyer pledged to provide a $10,000-a-year scholarship after Gibiec’s walk-on soccer tryout.

It was the first time that Jackie Huie was aware that a Rotary exchange student was able to remain in the U.S. to attend college – especially with a full scholarship.

Mateusz Gibiec

Matt Gibiec was twice named an Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America, the school’s first student-athlete to be given the honor.

The freshman, who had been playing soccer since age 4, started 15 games as a forward in his first season for the Blue Devils, which is not typical for a first-year player. He scored his first collegiate goal Aug. 30 and went on to earn the Newcomer of the Year award.

In his sophomore year, he was named a First-Team Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America, Lawrence’s first student-athlete to receive that honor. In his senior season, he was named to the organization’s Second-Team All-American roster, also a first.

The year before Gibiec’s arrival the soccer squad was 2-16. In his first year, they went 19-2-2 as Dyer built a more competitive team. In Gibiec’s senior year, they made it to the championship tournament and lost in the finals by one goal.

For two summers he played with the White Eagles, a league made up mostly of athletes from Poland, which gave him an opportunity to meet with people from his home country.

“It felt great to wear a jersey with the white eagle,” the symbol of Poland, Gibiec said.

Class act

Around all of this was the minor task of earning a degree, which he pursued with a similar laser focus.

He felt prepared academically as he began his college work, but had to quickly learn time management skills. Along with his classes and sports, he was a vice president of student government for two years, and in his senior year helped found and lead the Philanthropy Council, created to strengthen ties between students and the school before and after graduation.

“It was a busy time, but I like to say, being busy keeps you out of trouble,” Gibiec said.

After his freshman year he had an internship with Johnson-Rauhoff, the St. Joseph graphics company headed by Jackie Huie, where he worked in information technology and got his first exposure to the business world.

Additional internships included an 11-month stint with ImageSoft, a software company, and with Isuzu Technical Center of America, a two-year assignment where he worked on automotive computer controls full-time during the summer break and 20 hours a week during the academic year.

Mateusz Gibiec

Mateusz “Matt” Gibiec, a former Rotary exchange student at St. Joseph High School from Poland, celebrates his graduation from Lawrence Technological University with, at left, his host family, Mike and Jackie Huie, and right, his parents, Joanna and Janusz, making their first trip to America to attend the ceremony.

As his senior project, he was part of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Formula international race car competition, in which teams from around the world design, build and race their own vehicles. As one of 30 Lawrence team members, Gibiec was assigned the task of engineering the computer dashboard controls.

The team from Lawrence, a small school, went up against squads from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, MIT, and teams from Asia and Europe sponsored by such giants as Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Out of 150 teams that raced at the Michigan International Speedway this month, Gibiec’s crew was named in the top 30 for their innovative vehicle.

All of his experiences convinced Gibiec to combine his technical skills with his people skills in his future career.

“I’m a people person,” he said. “I love to communicate. I’m comfortable making speeches and giving presentations. That’s my gig.”

He expects to apply all of those assets when he begins a job as a software consultant with Dynatrace beginning in August. He hopes to pursue a master’s in business administration in a couple of years.

From Poland with love

Despite this whirlwind of activity, Gibiec didn’t neglect his families, either here or in Poland. He communicated regularly with his parents via Skype, Facetime and other electronic media, and returned every year for Christmas. He said he spoke with his parents more often than some friends in Poland who live near their families.

And the Huies kept a room for him for weekend and summer stays, and an open line for advice and support, he said. He occasionally returned to update the Rotary Club on his progress.

During their month-long reunion here, Gibiec and his parents are traveling throughout Michigan, from a revitalized Detroit to Traverse City and Mackinac Island, along with a weekend to see a cousin who lives in Chicago.

The elder Gibiecs, who live in a mountainous area of southern Poland, are enjoying the view of Lake Michigan from the Boulevard Inn in St. Joseph.

“It’s great for them to wake up and look out the window and see the lake shore,” Gibiec said.

With Matt interpreting, his parents said they have missed him, and are very proud of what he has accomplished, particularly since he left home when he was only 17.

Their son apparently took to heart the advice they gave him before he left: “Be myself, associate with the best kind of people, and work hard – it pays off.”

Contact:, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak

April 23, 2017 - Mentoring young Tigers

By ANDY STEINKE - HP Features Editor

Rotary Student Program making renewed push to help Benton Harbor High School students

BENTON HARBOR — More than 400 students have participated in the local Rotary Student Program, but there is one on whom program founders like to hang their hat.

Amber Thomas, a 2010 Benton Harbor High School graduate, is the oldest of nine siblings, and the first person in her family to attend college.

Now 25, she has graduated magna cum laude from Central State University in Ohio with a degree in chemistry and a minor in criminal justice, and is on pace to earn a law degree from Michigan State University next spring. She’d like to use her law degree in Washington, D.C.

“My involvement with the program was great,” she said. “I met with a lot of people. … Now that I’m entering the profession, I can go back to them and ask them questions and tap into their networks.”

Among the people she met with during her two-year stint in the program were judges Charles LaSata and David Peterson, attorney Richard Sammis and Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey.

It was her high school guidance counselor, Alvin Davis, who suggested she participate in the free program created by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor that pairs students with mentors in their field of interest.

“She didn’t know what she wanted to go into,” Davis said. “She was interested in forensic science, in law, but the program gave her a chance to have different experiences.”

After spending some time in the program, she told Davis she wanted to study criminology. Berrien RESA was sponsoring a criminology course at the time, but it was at the same time as her high school forensic science class.

“She wanted to do both,” Davis said. “So she comes back to me and says, ‘I can do both … the forensic science teacher said I could just go to the criminology class, and when I get back to the high school there is still 15 minutes left in his class, and I can just come into his class and do the make-up work.’ So she took both of these classes at the same time.”

Thomas has been a big proponent of the program, encouraging students like her younger brother, Tie’Vonte Wright, to participate.

“I’m the one who told him to apply,” she said. “I told him, ‘You have to do this. You don’t have a choice.’”

Focusing on BHHS

The Rotary Student Program started as a pilot 10 years ago with 10 students from St. Joseph High School.

Now open to all Southwest Michigan schools, the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor club is attempting to push the program to new heights, both locally and internationally.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Rick Villa, one of the original program committee members and the incoming Rotary president. “Either you never had a mentor when you were growing up, or you did have mentor. So whatever category you fall into, because you’re going to be in one or the other, you are going to say yes to the program, because you want to help. Because someone helped you, or no one helped you.”

“We haven’t had one person turn us down to be a mentor,” said Jackie Huie, one of the program’s co-founders. “Everybody that Mike’s (Huie) talked to, and everybody that I’ve talked to, have said, ‘I wish they had something like this when I was in school.’ Everyone. We haven’t had one person not say that.”

Benton Harbor High School sent students through the program during its early years, but mainly due to staffing reductions – among other factors – it hasn’t participated since about 2010.

That’s changing this school year, as there is a renewed effort to pair students with mentors.

Guidance Counselor Miriam Saleeby is one of several people at the high school – along with guidance counselor Trina Rodez, Rotary liaison Kristi Aubrey, and Alloyd Blackmon, a Whirlpool employee on loan to BHHS to work on the Benton Harbor Promise program – encouraging students to enroll in the program.

“I plastered the brochures (Jackie Huie) gave me,” Saleeby said. “Then I started chasing (students) down, because when they came into the office, very seldom were they able to say, ‘This is what I aspire to be, these are my dreams, this is what I’ve seen someone else do.’ It just seemed like a hurdle to get over.”

The program can help students learn what they want to be, or what they don’t want to be.

“If (students) came in and talked about careers,” said Davis, who is now retired, “there were usually three or four things they’d talk about: They wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, an Indian chief, a businessman. And that was it. There are over 15, 16,000 titles in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. So they need experiences, and their families can’t really provide that for them.

“So when Jackie came to me with the program,” he said, “and she asked me, ‘Do you have three or four students?’ Three or four? I’ve got 30 or 40 I could send you.”

Blackmon has been connecting students with business professionals through Benton Harbor Promise to expose them to more vocations, and said she has seen a lot of the same things Davis did.

“It became really obvious that a lot of kids just don’t know what they don’t know,” she said.

It’s not just the students who benefit from the program, proponents say. The Rotary Student Program rings true with many mentors, because of the school’s history in their lives.

“I get so many company presidents and CEOs who said, ‘I would love to help the students at Benton Harbor High School. I graduated from Benton Harbor High School,’” Villa said. “They are very proud. They stand up straight, and they say, ‘I will help, because that’s my school.’”

BHHS students jump on board

Twenty-two students at Benton Harbor High School have said they want to participate in the Rotary Student Program before the end of the school year – the most from any one school at any one time, according to Jackie Huie.

“We started telling them, this is a chance to actually invest in what you want to do,” Saleeby said. “It’s like a genie. It’s like a dream come true. These are the areas. Anything you want to do, we can find.”

BHHS junior Tim Davis and seniors Cha’kira Jones and Earl Benson are three of the students who have applied to the Rotary program.

Jones, 18, is an athlete who wants to become a physical therapist. She said she figures the program can give her more information about the field before she heads to college.

“Why not take advantage of the opportunity given to me?” she said.

She plans to go to Grace Bible College and study exercise science. In the long run she hopes to open her own physical therapy practice.

Davis, 17, said he applied to the program so he has a better chance at a music scholarship.

“I saw some interesting things on their website, like the program was life changing,” he said. “When I saw that, I got more interested in the program.”

He has played the trombone since fifth grade, and hopes his mentor can help him become a better musician.

He said he’s thought about a career in music, but isn’t sure yet if that’s the path he wants to take. He hopes the program can help him decide.

Benson, 17, said he hopes the Rotary program will help him become a better communicator. He wants to be a nurse someday, and plans to attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

“I basically, I hope to learn a lot about ... communication skills and public speaking skills, because I’m a shy person,” he said.

Saleeby said she thinks the program is going to catch on at the high school as ninth- and 10th-graders ask the older students about their experiences.

Going international

Jackie Huie, and her husband, Mike, have spoken numerous times about the program at global Rotary International Conventions in places like Bangkok, Thailand, Lisbon, Portugal and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

While more than 400 Southwest Michigan students have been through the program, there is no way to tell how many worldwide have benefited from the student-mentor engagements.

Jackie Huie said she has heard from people in New York and Africa since the Rotary Student Program was featured in this month’s The Rotarian magazine.

She said the program isn’t about Rotary, which finds mentors from without and within its ranks. Rotary is simply the catalyst that makes it work.

With nearly 1.23 million members worldwide, including 150 at the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor club, Rotary offers a large network from which to pull.

“We just use our network to reach out into the community to find these mentors,” Jackie said. “People love to share. They love to share with these kids.”

March 30, 2017 - Rotary Mentor Program Making A Big Difference For Local Youths

By 94.9 FM WSJM Staff

A mentorship program started by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor has been such a success that it’s become a model for chapters all around the world. Jackie Huie, the CEO of Johnson Rauhoff, tells us she helped get the program rolling around 2007, when the Rotary started reaching out to professionals in all sorts fields to ask if they’d chat with high school students from St. Joseph. Since then, they’ve expanded to districts all over the area, and about 400 kids have taken part.

“What it does is it lines up students with professionals in their dream careers,” Huie said. “So it’s a system, it’s an approach we use to try to help students get closer to making a connection with someone in a career that they think they might be interested in.”

The mentor program just added Benton Harbor High School this year after it dropped out a few years back. Huie says Rotary is perfect for finding a broad range of professionals interested in working with young people.

“Rotarians are well-networked,” Huie said. “It’s usually a lot of business leaders in the community. There’s also a lot of homemakers in Rotary. We look for anybody that wants to give service.

In one case, Huie says Whirlpool’s Jeff Fettig spoke with a high school student and stayed in touch with him through college. The mentorship program has attracted international Rotary attention as other chapters launch their own. If you’re interested in bringing the program to your high school, check with the guidance office or contact the local Rotary. You can find out more right here.

March 21, 2017 - SJ-BH Rotary Gets International Spotlight

By Pat Moody

Jackie Huie may well be one of the most laser-focused, hardest working Rotarians ever to take the 4-Way Test, the guiding principles behind every member. Her tenacity and on-point dedication to whatever role she takes up is nearly legendary to all who know her. So imagine the euphoria emanating from her executive suite at JohnsonRauhoff in south St. Joseph now that one of the projects she literally co-created with fellow Rotarian Maria Kibler is the focus of an 8-page spread at the very center of the current edition of The Rotarian.

The Rotarian is the international publication that goes to members of Rotary clubs world wide, meaning millions of eyeballs are looking at the photos and reading the story of the overwhelming success of the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary’s Interact Club for high school students and its underlying work to pair students with mentors in their dream jobs. Senior Writer Arnold R. Grahl totally immersed himself in the detailed story and the photography of Monika Lozinska and chalk art, to help illustrate the story, by Nancy Pochis Bank Art Studio leave a lasting impression on the reader as you realize the very real impact that the program has had and continues to have on local students from Michigan’s Great Southwest who are pursuing their dreams thanks to the help of mentors from all walks of life all the way to the executive suites of chief executive officers of major corporations.

The April 2017 edition of The Rotarian just mailed out to members worldwide yesterday, and Rotary members are using the outstanding publicity to promote the program and its crystal clear benefits. Jackie is extremely grateful to fellow members of the club the help of Whirlpool and others when the writer was in town to gather the details of the story, and gives full faith and credit to her own mentor, JohnsonRauhoff founder Don Johnson, her father and guiding light.

The story provides great proof of the success of the program to the point that, as indicated inside, Huie has received calls from clubs from Texas to Tanzania interested in replicating the process. One can only imagine the pace of phone traffic headed her way when members around the world get the urge to do the same.

Click the link below to read the entire story, shared online by Rotarians but viewable by the general public with no affiliation to the organization whatsoever. When you do, you’ll very likely feel the enthusiasm of Rotarians like Jackie and Maria as it leaps from the page.

Here’s the link:

February 28, 2017 - Drawing Connections – Rotary Club pairs students with celebrity and CEO mentors

Written by Arnold R. Grahl

Photos by Monika Lozinska

Chalk art by Nancy Pochis Bank Art Studio

View this article on

Snow is falling in St. Joseph, Michigan. On this December day, the overcast sky, swirling flakes, and twinkling bulbs of holiday decorations have created a festive, almost Capraesque atmosphere along the brick-paved streets of this community, which sits on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. Across the street from the Boulevard Inn, stairs lead down to Silver Beach, a 1,600-foot-long expanse of sand that is the town’s main attraction in warmer months.

Inside the inn’s restaurant, Jackie Huie sits at a corner table explaining the student mentoring program that the Rotary Club of St. Joseph & Benton Harbor started a decade ago – a program that has helped more than 400 local high school students learn more about their dream careers by connecting them with professionals in those fields.

The exposure to community service that the program provides has led students to start Interact clubs at six local schools, including one at St. Joseph High School that has about 150 members. As the Rotarians work their connections to find mentors for students, they have strengthened the bonds between the 140-member Rotary club and its community. And in small ways, the program is even building bridges between St. Joseph and its “twin city” across the St. Joseph River – Benton Harbor, a once-affluent manufacturing town fallen on hard times.

Jackie Huie
Jackie Huie: Find your passion and turn it into something that helps others

“I grew up in an entrepreneur family where my father did something I found interesting, and he allowed me to see behind the scenes,” says Huie, CEO of JohnsonRauhoff, an ad agency her father built. “I felt very fortunate to be able to do that, and I want that opportunity for others.”

Her wavy brown hair is pulled back in a ponytail, and her words come out in a rush: Everything about Huie attests to an intensity that gets results. In 2006, she met with fellow Rotarian Maria Kibler and a few others at Phoenix Rising, a café in the nascent arts district of Benton Harbor, to map out a plan. Kibler was a chaperone in the club’s student guest program, which brought two high school students to the club’s lunch meeting each week.

“The students were so great,” says Kibler, a senior vice president at St. Joseph-based Edgewater Bank. “We all started thinking there was more we could do.”

The new program they came up with asks students to describe their dream career in an essay, then matches each participant with a Rotarian who accompanies them on a “reverse interview” with a professional in that career. The students ask the mentors about their typical workday, what they like best about their job, and advice on how to achieve their goals.

Ten students chosen by counselors at St. Joseph and Lake Michigan Catholic high schools took part in the pilot phase of the program in 2007.

Rachael Kuehn, who was leaning toward studying medicine, was a senior when she participated in 2009.

“When I talked to her to see what kind of doctor she was interested in becoming,” Kibler says, “she said she was interested in business as well.” So the Rotarians set up Kuehn with two mentors – a local physician and Huie’s husband, Mike, a Rotarian who was then the global director for Whirlpool’s KitchenAid division. “She loved the business interview,” Kibler recalls.

Kuehn was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin when she realized she preferred her economics classes over science. She says that having shadowed both a doctor and a business executive a year earlier helped her decide to shift gears.

“In high school, it’s hard to picture what a day-to-day job looks like,” she says. “This program lets you sit with professionals in different fields and say, ‘Oh, this is what you do every day, these are the kinds of problems you deal with.’”

Kuehn earned her degree from the university’s School of Business and works as a senior financial analyst for L’Oréal in New York City.

Hailey Bruce
Hailey Bruce: Misty Copeland was really sweet
Read more about Hailey

Inside the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph, about 70 Rotarians sit around a dozen tables under ornate chandeliers. Two murals by Midwestern artist Richard Haas depict the commercial and recreational history of the twin cities.

Two students are reporting to the club today about their mentoring experience, the final step in the program. Kaila Nichols, a sophomore at St. Joseph High School, describes her visit to the newsroom of WNDU-TV in South Bend, Ind. Huie went with her to meet the station’s news director, C.J. Beutien; Nichols also talked with anchor Maureen McFadden and meteorologist Mike Hoffman.

“The most fun part was getting to sit in the studio in front of the camera and be an anchor for a day,” Nichols reported. “I’ve wanted to be a journalist for a long time. The experience reassured me that I want to pursue this when I head to college.”

Next up was Alysa Gould, a junior at St. Joseph High School. When Gould was 12, she had corrective surgery for scoliosis and remembers being mesmerized by the hospital’s complexity. For her reverse interview, she met with Ryan Dudley, chief of anesthesiology at Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph.

“It was amazing and funny and very helpful,” Gould told the club. “He told me not only how his job worked, but about the bad parts as well. He mentioned things I hadn’t focused on when I was researching the profession. I am definitely still interested in a career in anesthesiology.”

Ask club members why they got involved with the program, and they’ll mention their own mentoring experience – or lack of one. Rick Villa is the son of Mexican migrant workers; neither parent finished high school. His mother died when he was 15.

“I had nobody to look up to, nobody to ask, no way to see what my future might be like in different careers,” says Villa, who was one of the Rotarians who took part in the initial discussions about the mentoring program, and ran it in 2012-13 when Huie was club president. “When this program came about, I jumped in with both feet.”

Villa graduated from Michigan State University and worked as a civil engineer until he discovered his real passion, environmental consulting. He now runs his own company and tells students: “Find what you really want to do in life and make it work for you.”

Villa, who has served as a mentor and helps secure interviews with potential mentors, says the role of Rotarian host is equally important. The host helps prepare the student for the meeting with his or her mentor, sits in on the interview, keeps the conversation going if it flags, and if necessary reminds the student to ask for the mentor’s contact information.

“You’d be amazed,” he says. “Ninety-nine times out of 100 they will give the student a card and say, ‘When you start college and have questions about what classes to take, I will help.’ That’s pretty awesome to be able to contact a doctor or attorney or engineer and get that kind of advice.”

David Reimers
David Reimers: I was nervous
Read more about David

St. Joseph High School benefits from a supportive community with a median household income of $55,012. Seven years ago, voters passed a $38 million bond for upgrades at St. Joseph Public Schools facilities. At the high school, renovations included new gymnasiums, a media center and library, and a dining area where the entire student body can eat at one time. The campus is equipped with modern equipment, including a food lab where students were whipping up pasta and meat sauce during a recent visit.

Across the river, in Benton Harbor, the median income is $18,085 (the per capita income of $10,309 recorded in the 2010 census was the lowest in the state). Inside Benton Harbor High School, floor tiles are worn, classrooms are either too chilly or too hot, and windows are papered over to shade the sun. In the carpentry lab, water drips from the ceiling into a bucket on the floor. “It’s been like that for six years,” notes the lab’s instructor. “We just work around it.”

The library, which includes a computer center, is locked for part of the day and is staffed only by part-time volunteers.

The school, built in 1921 for more than 2,000 students, now has roughly 600. Under Michigan’s “schools of choice” policies, parents can apply to enroll their kids in other schools outside as well as within the district. Of the nearly 5,100 students who live in the Benton Harbor Area School District, only 43 percent attend school in the district.

In the 2014-15 Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, 3 percent of 11th-graders at Benton Harbor High School scored as “proficient” in math, 8.4 percent in science, and 13 percent in English language arts. About 30 percent of students fail to graduate within four years. These numbers have the Rotary club hoping to bring Benton Harbor High School, which contributed students from 2007 to 2010, back into the student mentoring program.

One of the success stories from Benton Harbor’s early participation in the mentoring program is Amber Thomas, who is pursuing a law degree at Michigan State after completing her undergraduate degree at Central State University in Ohio. She is the first member of her family to go to college.

The oldest of nine siblings, Thomas lived with her grandmother in Fair Plain, a more affluent neighborhood of Benton Harbor. Thomas says her grandmother pushed her hard to excel in school.

“Growing up here, you see all these societal problems, and as a kid you are not thinking about all of that,” she says. “But when you get older, people look at you differently. People say things. You go to your school and they don’t have books, but in St. Joseph everyone has a book and can take them home. And I thought, What can I do to change this? To me, the most effective way to change something is to have voice and power. Attorneys have that.’’

The program brought Thomas together with Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey and Judge Charles LaSata, members of the St. Joseph & Benton Harbor club. She also shadowed other judges, a dispatcher, and a forensic scientist during her junior and senior years at Benton Harbor High School. LaSata remembers his meeting with her well.

“She asked the right questions, and she was not intimidated by a circuit court or former district court judge,” he says.

Alvin Davis, Thomas’ school counselor, is certain the student program helped her. “I think you can have ideas, but they are not concrete; you don’t know which way to go,” he says. “The more experiences you have, the easier it is to make decisions.”

Thomas agrees. “It helped shape everything I was doing,” she says. “I got to see what I would be getting into as an attorney or if I wanted to be a judge, and to ask questions and form relationships. It turned my interest into a passion and also confirmed there was a need for more people like me in this field.”

Alexis Harms
Alexis: The writers were so excited to help
Read more about Alexis

Between 30 and 50 students from four area high schools go through the program each year. Huie and Kibler work with school counselors to promote the program and refer students who would benefit the most. Interested students complete a 250-word essay describing their interest in a particular career. The club’s mentoring committee reviews the essays, searches for suitable mentors, and assigns a host Rotarian to each student in the program.

Sometimes finding a mentor is easy, as when a member of the club fills the bill. Other times, the process is more elaborate. Kibler remembers one student who was interested in equine law. “I didn’t even know what that was,” she says. But Stephen Smith, an attorney in their club, had just joined a law firm that included a leading expert in that field.

Huie also went to extra lengths to find a mentor for Hailey Bruce, a student who dreams of dancing on tour with Disney. Huie called a media agent for Misty Copeland, who has since been named a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

“I think I caught the agent off guard, and she just wanted to get this crazy woman off the phone,” Huie says. “But if you mention Rotary, it does carry credibility. And once she understood what we wanted, the agent set up the call, and Misty was happy to talk to our student.”

Any club can set up its own mentoring program using the materials on the program’s website, rotarystudentprogram .org, which include promotional posters, essay applications, and program announcements. The site also lays out step-by-step instructions for the program, from contacting school officials to inviting students back to make a presentation. Huie has been contacted by clubs in Texas and Tanzania looking to begin their own programs, and a club in Kansas found mentors for more than a dozen students in 2015 before the program director moved away, sending the program into a brief hiatus.

Thomas says that without people like her grandmother, Huie, and Davis investing their time in her, life would be much different. “Without a program like this, who knows where I would have ended up?” she says. “The experiences it opened up for me made me want to change, do better, and come back and help other kids have the same opportunities.”

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May 21, 2016 - Making connections

Local program to help students explore careers goes international


HP Staff Writer

BENTON HARBOR — A mentoring program started by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor is getting international attention.

The Rotary Student Program, which was piloted in 2007 by the club, will be featured in an upcoming Rotary International magazine, said Jackie Huie, a club member who helped start the program.

“It was really an experiment,” she said. “For years, we had been hosting students for lunch at Rotary.”

One day, she said, she and another Rotary Club member talked about doing more to help the students make connections.

“Most people aren’t fortunate enough to sit across from the person who does their dream, and everybody has a different dream,” she said.

Thus, the Rotary Student Program started in 2007 with 10 students from St. Joseph High School, she said.

“We lined up those 10 kids with 10 different professional Rotarians,” she said. “... It was always the profession the student proclaimed they had an interest in.”

She said the students are able to ask the professionals they are paired with anything they want. Huie said that during those interviews, the students are able to gain information they can’t get out of books.

“Then, they come back to Rotary and they have to report out what they learned,” she said.

Huie said that over time, the program was expanded to several local school districts. She said she met with the Rotary International president during the 2012 Rotary International Convention in Bangkok, Thailand, to talk about how to spread the program to other clubs.

She said the program received more exposure when it was chosen to be the topic of a breakout session during the 2013 and 2015 Rotary International Conventions in Lisbon, Portugal, and Sao Paulo, Brazil, respectively.

She said a reporter from the Rotary International magazine is visiting Southwest Michigan in June to put together the story, which will feature several local mentoring success stories, including one about Amber Thomas, a 2010 graduate of Benton Harbor High School. “She had a dream to become a lawyer, and she did not have the resources or the contacts to get started,” Huie said. “... at least five or six people came together to help her.”

Thomas said she participated in the program in her junior and senior years. She graduated magna cum laude from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a minor in criminal justice. She is now in her second year at Michigan State University Law School in East Lansing, with plans to graduate in 2018.

Thomas was recently given the Academic Excellence and Achievement Recognition Award by the Benton Harbor City Commission.

She said she is the oldest of nine children and is the first person in her family to go to college.

Thomas said she lives by two mottos – “I don’t believe in the impossible because I’m possible” and “Actions need to prove your words.”

She said the Rotary Student Program gave her hands-on experience and helped her create a professional network. This summer, she is working as an associate at Varnum LLP in Grand Rapids. In the fall, she will work as a clinician at the Chance at Childhood Clinic for abused and neglected children at Michigan State University College of Law.

March 13, 2016 - Connecting with the world

By JOHN MATUSZAK - HP Staff Writer

ST. JOSEPH — The St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary Club’s Student Mentor Program and its founder, Jackie Huie, continue to garner worldwide attention for their efforts to connect young people with successful professionals in many fields.

Rotary International’s website has profiled Huie and the program she helped launch in 2007, that has grown locally and has been adopted by Rotary groups all over the world.

“I got a letter from a girl who came from a poor background, and through the program, she got a chance to meet with an attorney in town,” Huie, president of JohnsonRauhoff, a multimedia company in St. Joseph, told Rotary International. “It inspired her and gave her confidence to go to school and study law. She got accepted into four law schools and is on her way to becoming an attorney.”

Huie has made presentations at International Rotary conferences in Portugal and Brazil about the Student Mentor Program, and recently received a call from Panama.

While this online article was being put together, Huie received a call from photojournalist Monika Lozinska, with the Rotary International office in Chicago, who was interested in doing her own piece on the mentorship program.

Huie sent Lozinska profiles of students who had participated and who had been in touch with an associate editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine in Washington, D.C., with prima ballerina Misty Copeland in New York City, and author Rinker Buck, among many others.

Lozinska was so impressed that she will come to St. Joseph this spring to collect video sound bites from the students and their mentors. Jeff Fettig, president and CEO of Whirlpool Corp. and one of the first mentors to sign on, has agreed to be interviewed, Huie said.

The interviews, when completed, will be posted on the Rotary International website.

The mentorship program is just one of the efforts by the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary Club to connect with young people, to encourage them to perform community service and to explore career options.

The club has Interact groups with more than 200 Interact members at four area schools, and 40 will travel to the Dominican Republic this summer to install water filters and take part in a medical mission.

This month the Rotary Club will sponsor a “Career Speed Dating” event for area high school students to speak with people from several fields. Among the guest participants will be Michael Smiy, a Southwest Michigan native and now a Hollywood film producer who will talk to students via Skype.

“It’s important for Rotary to make an investment in young people,” Huie told Rotary International. “My own daughter is in Interact because of my membership in Rotary. I think her world is broader, and she looks at the world differently. We all do, because of what we’ve learned through Rotary.”

March 8, 2016 - Successful Women Mentor Youth Through Rotary


When Clara Montanez was a student, she never heard the word mentoring. The idea of having a role model help you pursue your ambitions was unfamiliar to her.

"You basically chose your career based on personal interest and hoped you could find a job," says Montanez, senior director of investment for Oppenheimer & Co., Inc. "I went the route of getting married and having children first, and started my career later in life. I had no model for how to do that."

That changed for Montanez the day a friend invited her to join Rotary.

"Frankly, I was dragged into Rotary. I didn't see a connection at first," says Montanez, who's been a member of the Rotary Club of Washington, D.C., since 2003. "But then I met several women, including Doris Margolis, who took me under her wing and started mentoring me on how to get more involved. I began seeing the value in having someone I could count on as a mentor, and I have become more of a leader in our club, in my community, and at work."

Rotary's mentoring opportunities motivated Montanez, Rotary's alternate representative to the Organization of American States, to help organize an event for International Women's Day, 8 March. The event, to be held at the World Bank Group headquarters in Washington, will feature Deepa Willingham and Marion Bunch, both previously honored as . Rotary International Director Jennifer Jones will moderate the event, which will be streamed on .

Montanez says Rotary has given her a platform to mentor young women as they balance career and family, as well as manage the challenge of repaying student loans. According to a , the student loan debt burden weighs more heavily on women because of the persistent gap in pay between women and men.

"I think Rotary has given me access to young people, like Rotaractors, and they are ready to accept guidance because Rotary is a safe place to reach out and get advice," says Montanez.

Similarly, Jackie Huie, a member of the Rotary Club of St. Joseph & Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA, recognizes Rotary's mentoring power. In 2007, Huie's club created a that matches high school juniors and seniors with a mentor in the field they'd like to enter. The program started with 40 students at one high school and has now expanded into schools across the area.

"I got a letter from a girl who came from a poor background, and through the program, she got a chance to meet with an attorney in town," says Huie, president of JohnsonRauhoff, a multimedia company that fosters creative thinking for artists. "It inspired her and gave her confidence to go to school and study law. She got accepted into four law schools and is on her way to becoming an attorney."

Besides the investment in young people's futures, mentoring brings clubs important community recognition. For example, Huie's club has 150 members, a large number for a club that doesn't hold membership drives, she says.

"Everyone in southwest Michigan knows about Rotary," says Huie. "We had a student who wanted to be a CEO for a large corporation. After we arranged for him to meet with the CEO of Whirlpool, his father was so impressed with the whole program that he joined Rotary."

Many of the program's early participants went on to form an Interact club, and there are now more than 200 Interact members at four area schools. Forty of them will travel to the Dominican Republic this summer to install water filters and take part in a medical mission.

"It's important for Rotary to make an investment in young people," says Huie. "My own daughter is in Interact because of my membership in Rotary. I think her world is broader, and she looks at the world differently. We all do, because of what we've learned through Rotary."

By Arnold R. Grahl
Rotary News
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2015 - Rotary District 6360 News, "Student Mentoring Program"

By DEB TRAPIKAS - District Secretary

Since it’s official 2008 launch, the Rotary Student Program has been adopted by Rotary Clubs from Asia to Europe. Featured in presentations at various Rotary Clubs, Districts and Zones, the program has also caught the attention of Rotary International, which has provided added visibility on, as well as through two Rotary International Conventions. Since launch, program adoption has steadily increased with participation commitments throughout District 6360, 6400 and now throughout the world with more than 60 countries participating. While exact data is difficult to capture for a program of this magnitude, Google Analytics confirm website traffic of 125 countries and unique visitors climbing to a staggering 12,000, with the highest traffic coming from the US, China, Japan, Brazil, South Korea and the Ukraine. Separate of the website, program coordinators have received direct communication from various countries around the globe, including Africa, Italy, Mexico and a club in Ireland who toasted the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor for coming up with the program.

Through a simple 11-Step process provided on the website, clubs are given tools to connect with schools interested in connecting students the most successful people in the business world. Schools, students and parents welcome the program since the opportunity to sit down with professionals in “dream careers” fills a void often faced by most students facing their futures. Focus is on 11th and 12th graders – those facing major life decisions. Selected for outstanding essays on why they should be in the program, students are given rare access to top business professionals. In reverse interview settings, which include one Rotarian, one business professional and one student, thought-provoking questions are asked, seeds of inspiration are planted and in some cases, game changing decisions are made. In the meetings, students ask about career paths, career fit, specific studies and alternate paths that lead to that dream job. In many cases, the program reinforces dreams. In some cases, it reroutes them, but always at a critical time – well before the high investment of time and energy in college and career. While schools and parents value their children having this opportunity, business professionals, seeking that next candidate, applaud Rotary for leading it. The residual effect is that the program additional fills an employee candidate void in communities, opening the door for internships and returning students entering the professional world.

Since Rotarian involvement is limited to making the connections and sitting in on first meetings, students develop lasting mentors through the business professional – from entrepreneurs, to philanthropists, to pharmacists, to professional athletes, to Fortune 100 CEOs. The most notable professionals being Misty Copeland, the world’s most famous African American Prima Ballerina, recently named a 2015, “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time and Jeff Fettig, CEO of Whirlpool Corporation, a Fortune Magazine, “World’s Most Admired Company.” In 2011, Fettig mentored St. Joseph High School Senior, David Reimers, who was interested in becoming a Fortune CEO. Taking advice from the mentor meeting, David went on to attend Michigan State University to Major in Finance on a Whirlpool Scholarship. Returning home for the summer break, David secured a Whirlpool Summer Internship. A few years later, he graduated from MSU with a BA in Finance and returned to Whirlpool to start his professional career.

Through the process, the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor, gained a new member – David’s father, 5/3 Bank CEO, Randy Reimers. The story gets even better. This Fall, Rotarian Randy Reimers will sponsor the youngest new member of the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor – his son, David Reimers. Randy claims that his son’s experience was so life changing, it inspired him to join Rotary, “Overnight, David went from a kid, to a man…that is how HUGE of an impact Jeff Fettig had on our son.” According to Jackie Huie, “This is one of many stories about the program’s success.”

Aside of meeting with business professionals, the students are asked to attend two Rotary meetings – both seated with their Rotary host. During the second visit, the student invites their parents and their business mentor. Through the process, parents and business professionals are impressed with Rotary and become Rotarians – like Randy Reimers. “It’s a subtle way to say, join us, we do great things,” according to Jackie.

How It All Started

According to Jackie, the true inspiration for the program, is her father, Don Johnson, Founder and CEO of JohnsonRauhoff, a Southwest Michigan based communications group with global accounts ( Early on, Don gave his four children the opportunity to visit the family business, providing a behind-the-scenes chance to see the real life of an advertising agency. Heading to college, Don’s children confidently chose the advertising path, starting their careers elsewhere and returning to Michigan to work at their father’s business. An ongoing advocate of mentoring, Don has generously contributed more than $160,000 of company time to the Rotary Student Program, which receives no Rotary funding. “We believed so strongly in the program that we didn’t feel it was right to charge clubs to utilize it. We worked hard to make the tools simple to use and the steps clear. Besides, Dad has always told us that it’s easier to hit your target when you know where you’re going. We envision every young person in the world having that opportunity,” Jackie recently shared. “Too often,” she added, “I meet people who had a dream that never became a reality, because they simply didn’t know how to get started. We picture a world where everyone has the opportunity to explore their dream, to discover if that dream is or isn’t the right fit. There is no better network than Rotary to make that dream a reality and through the process, we can spread awareness about who we are, what we do and why others should join.”

Founding Rotary Club

The program took life in 2006 when members of the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor decided to raise the bar on student lunch hosting. Recognizing the many experiences, talents and network within her own Rotary Club, Jackie Huie shared the idea of the program with Rotary Student Guest Chairman, Janet Zielke. Thinking Jackie was on to something or, according to Jackie, “that I was crazy and just needed to discover that myself,” she was asked to Chair the program and test the concept. Taking a 2007 first trial run with a handful of St. Joseph High School students, the program quickly grew in popularity and by 2008 spread to 5 schools in Southwest Michigan. “It got to the stage that I couldn’t even go to the grocery store without being approached by parents who wanted to know more about the program,” Jackie told us, adding, “It’s also pretty neat, because through the process, Rotary has become popular in Southwest Michigan and we are growing beyond our 150 membership without needing a membership drive. It seems that every other week, we have 3 new members coming in.”

Going Global

Discovering that 90% of students globally lacked career mentors, Jackie has worked with her club’s mentoring committee to expand the program, providing free tools to other clubs around the world. Global awareness was ignited after a presenting the program to an RI President at Rotary International Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois. In 2012, Jackie and her then 12-year old son, Grant, were given a rare opportunity to hold a private meeting with RI President 2011-2012 Kalyan Banerjee. During the meeting, Kalyan gave Grant his greatest treasure of an elephant statue from India and gave Jackie advice on how to make the Rotary Student Program expand. The RI President recommended reaching out to the RI Chairs of Vocational Services, Strategic Planning and Membership Growth. Through outreach, it was the Vocational Services Committee, led by RI Board Member Paul Netzel, that took the greatest interest.

After a meeting with Paul Netzel during the 2012 RI Convention, in Bangkok, Thailand, Jackie was invited to return to RI Headquarters to present the program to the RI Vocational Services Committee. During that visit, Jackie was interviewed by a RI reporter, who wrote a homepage feature on the Rotary Student Program. After

posting a Rotary Showcase, Jackie was invited to present the program at two popular Rotary International Convention Breakout Sessions, in which she and her Rotarian husband, Mike Huie, were speakers – RI Convention 2015, Sao Paulo, Brazil and RI Convention 2013 Lisbon, Portugal. During the presentations, Jackie and Mike shared the fringe benefits of the Rotary Student Program, including participant parents and business professionals joining Rotary and students joining Interact.

The residual positive impact of the program continues through Interact. In a record- breaking 2-week period in 2012, a 60-member Interact Charter was formed in Southwest Michigan through the 5 High Schools and students that had participated in the Rotary Student Program. The charter has since expanded reach to multiple Southwest Michigan schools and grown to what is projected to now be over 160 students. Lead by Rotarian Advisor, Maria Kibler, founding Committee Member of the Rotary Student Program, the Interact Club takes annual mission trips to the Dominican Republic to help Rotary District 6360 Rotarians install Bio-sand Water Filters.

Rotary International Convention

In 2013, Rotarians Mike and Jackie Huie were invited to present the Rotary Student Program to two standing room only sessions at the 2013 Rotary International Convention, Lisbon Portugal. On June 4-11, 2015, Mike and Jackie Huie were again invited to present the program at the 2015 Rotary International Convention, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Countries reaching out after the 2015 RI Convention, include Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Ghana, Nigeria, Panama, Sri Lanka, US and the new Rotary Student Program Facebook page had a 1,560% lift in one week. Rotary International officials have continued to show interest in the program. RI Chief Strategy and Enterprise Projects Officer, Joe Brownlee, has agreed to meet to further discuss how it can help build membership internationally – membership growth being the #2 goal of Rotary behind Polio Eradication. Moving forward, sights are now being set on the 2016 Rotary International Conference in South Korea, with the first priority in growing membership in District 6360.

July 26, 2015 - SJ-BH Rotary student mentoring program goes global

By JOHN MATUSZAK - HP Staff Writer
Sunday, July 26, 2015

ST. JOSEPH - Behind every successful professional is someone who helped them take their first steps up that ladder.

The St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary Club realized that universal truth seven years ago and launched a student mentor program that is now going global.

"Sometimes I think the difference between success and failure is passion. Sometimes I think it's having a focus. Sometimes I think it's hard work. And sometimes I think it's having someone helping you out," said Jackie Huie, past president of the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary Club and president of Johnson-Rauhoff marketing firm, who helped launch the Rotary Student Program.

The program started in 2008 as Huie and others saw that many young people did not have access to the experience and advice of the top people in various career fields. Huie had that chance from an early age, shadowing her father, Don Johnson, who started Johnson-Rauhoff 50 years ago.

"I love my job," Huie said. "I feel like the luckiest person in the world, and I would love it if everybody had that opportunity."

Since the Rotary Student Program started, hundreds of area high school students have had the opportunity to meet leaders in Southwest Michigan and around the country - from a former NFL players to a prima ballerina with the New York City Ballet.

With the support of the local community (including Johnson-Rauhoff) and Rotary International, Huie and her husband, Mike, have made presentations at global conferences in Lisbon, Portugal, and this year in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

So far, 60 countries have pledged to adopt the program, with more signing on all the time.

Mentoring mavens Student mentoring is a popular concept these days, but back when Huie first had the idea, it was not as common.

The Rotary Student Program consists of a one-hour "reverse interview" with the professional, in which the student asks questions about their field of expertise. They then report back to their home club, gaining experience in public speaking. "It's not about the business professional just showing up, it's not about a tour or even about shadowing. It's about having an honest conversation" about their career choice, Huie said.

One of the breakthrough partnerships was with Jeff Fettig, president and CEO of Whirlpool Corp.

St. Joseph High School student David Reimers wrote on his application for the Rotary Student Program that his dream job was to be CEO of Whirlpool.

"We all laughed," Huie said of their committee. "We called Mr. Fettig and said 'There's a kid who wants to be you. Would you be willing to sit down with him?' He chuckled and then said 'Sure, I'll sit down with him.'"

In a video testimonial, Reimers said Fettig gave him invaluable advice. He suggested that the young man first major in finance and accounting "since numbers are the language of business," and then get his MBA.

He also told Reimers "Don't worry about your next job. Work as hard as you can on your current job, and the next job will take care of itself."

The participation of Fettig, head of one of the largest companies in the world, encouraged others to take part, Huie said.

In his own testimonial, Fettig acknowledged the worldwide potential of the project. "It doesn't matter the language, it doesn't matter the culture, sharing your experience and letting people find out how they can succeed through your experiences can help anyone, really, in any country in the world."

The mentor relationship with Reimers continued, with Fettig visiting him at Michigan State University. All that advice must have stuck because Reimers is now working for Whirlpool.
"I don't know what I'd be doing today," without the Rotary Student Program, Reimers said.

Re-energizing Rotary

Reimers, now 22, is poised to become the youngest member of the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary Club.

His father, Randy Reimers, community president with Fifth Third Bank, was so impressed with the results that he joined Rotary, as well.

"Overnight David went from a kid to a man ... that is how huge of an impact Jeff Fettig had on our son," he said.

Recruiting new Rotarians boosts the organization's global missions of providing clean water to remote locations and eliminating polio, Huie said.

Traveling overseas tapped into a worldwide need for mentors.

The Huies first traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, to test the waters for their concept. The next year they went to Lisbon, and received an enthusiastic response.

"People were telling us 'We can't make the connections in our communities for our kids,'" Huie said.

Things only continued to grow during the Brazil trip, with nations such as Zambia, Uganda, Ghana and Italy among the latest converts.

The program has been featured on Rotary International's website.

With 1.2 million members worldwide, Rotary is the perfect vehicle to sustain such an effort, Huie said. And the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor club, one of the largest in the world with 150 members, has the connections to make it happen, she said.

Rotary Clubs interested in the mentor program are sent information with 11 steps for getting one off the ground. Huie said they have recently provided downloadable material to make it more accessible.

The project hasn't reached its peak, Huie said. "It's nowhere near where it's going to be."

Huie even sees this as a way to help underprivileged kids.

"For kids in poverty-stricken areas, if you have a goal, if you have a path, it's easier to pull yourself through, and if you have hope," said Huie, whose father is a self-made man and whose mother picked cotton as a child.

The continuing success of the Rotary Student Program emphasizes for Huie and the others involved the power of a dream.

Maria Kibler, a Rotarian and advisor to their Interact group for students, reminded her "Jackie, remember that day when we said this will go global? It did!"

To view the article, click here.

September 8, 2012 - Rotary International Showcase of Rotary Student Program

Launched in 2008 by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA, the Rotary Student Program is a proven, successful mentoring initiative that directly links youth and communities with Rotary and the three pillars of Rotary International Strategic Priorities and Goals: 1) Support and Strengthen Clubs, 2) Focus and Increase Humanitarian Service, and 3) Enhance Public Image and Awareness. Aligning with the 5 Avenues of Service — Club Service, Vocational Service, Community Service, International Service, and New Generations Service — the program is being piloted by District 6360 and globally. Highly effective in attracting youth to Rotary through service, the program is being viewed as a viable catalyst for club revitalization, community relevance, and global membership growth. Rotary Clubs from around the world that have been exposed to the initiative have expressed interest in adopting it.
To view the article, click here.

October 6, 2012 - Rotary Club of St. Joseph careers effort gets a nod

Posted: Saturday, October 6, 2012

A service program developed by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor aimed at helping area high school students reinforce their career choices, or rethink them, is featured in an article on the Rotary International Website.

Participants, chosen by their schools, are given a chance to explore their professional interests by spending time behind the scenes at area businesses and meeting with adult mentors who share their experiences and advise the students on how best to pursue their careers.

Since launching the program in 2008, Rotarians have matched more than 300 students with professionals including lawyers, doctors, a company CEO, broadcast journalists, police officers, and a professional football player, according to Jackie Huie. Huie is chairwoman of the program and president of the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor club.
To view the article, click here.

October 5, 2012 - Michigan club gives students a chance to explore their dream jobs

By Ryan Hyland
Rotary News - 5 October 2012

A vocational service program conducted by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA, is helping junior and senior high school students develop careers by connecting them with mentors who are leaders in industry.

Participants are selected by their schools and given the opportunity to explore their professional interests with behind-the-scenes visits to area businesses. They also meet one-on-one with mentors, who share their experiences and advise the students on how best to pursue their dream careers.

Since the club launched the mentoring program in 2008, Rotarians have put more than 300 students in touch with professionals including lawyers, doctors, a Fortune 500 CEO, broadcast journalists, police officers, and a professional football player. Two Rotarians accompany each student who meets with a professional. The students are then required to report on their experiences at a meeting of the Rotary Club.

“This program leverages Rotary’s amazing network of professionals to help young people connect with their career interests,” says Jackie Huie, program chair and president of the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor club. “We have not had a vocation that we couldn’t find for a student.”

The experience gives teenagers a chance either to reinforce their career choices or to rethink them, says Huie.

Teri LaForest, a senior and a 2012 program participant, wanted to become a meteorologist. The club organized a meeting with a meteorologist at the local TV station. After the visit, LaForest concluded that that job might not be for her but that she still had a passion for environmental science.

Visit sheds light on career path

“It was really neat to be able to see the TV studio, an opportunity I would not have had without Rotary,” says LaForest. “Visiting the station actually made choosing a career easier, but tougher at the same time. I realized that I’m not very interested in the broadcast side of meteorology. The scientific side, however, I found very interesting. The experience got me thinking about possibly going into a field that combines engineering and environmental science.”

David Reimers, a second-year student at Michigan State University, met with Whirlpool Corporation CEO Jeff Fettig when he was a senior in high school. Reimers says that talking with Fettig confirmed his career choice, and he points to Whirlpool as the company he’d like to work for.

“I know for sure that business is the right field for me,” says Reimers. “In high school I was a bit naive thinking about the difficulty of actually becoming a CEO and the stress involved with the job. In college I have really tried to focus on the advice Mr. Fettig gave me, which was not to worry about your next job, just work as hard as you can at the job you have, and the rest will take care of itself. If I don’t quite make it to the top, I will be all right with that, as long as I have worked my hardest to get there. I now know that the only way to the top is from the bottom, and there are no shortcuts.”

Huie says the program’s success inspired the formation of the Interact Club of Saint Joseph-Benton Harbor in February. After just two weeks, the club membership grew to 60 students.

Huie says clubs from Scotland, New Zealand, India, Peru, and Japan have inquired about starting similar programs since she shared details about it with Rotarians at the 2012 RI Convention in Bangkok.

“This is a proven, successful mentoring initiative that directly links youth and communities with Rotary,” says Huie. “It’s attracting youth to Rotary and is a lasting catalyst for club revitalization, community relevance, and global membership growth.”

To view this article as posted on the Rotary International site, click here.

March 1, 2012 - A new kind of 'Interaction'

Rotary Club inaugurates new youth club that encompasses SJHS, BHHS, Lake Michigan Catholic, Michigan Lutheran and Countryside students

Story Credit: The Herald-Palladium
March 1, 2012

ST. JOSEPH - The Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor has something unique to its credit - a youth club with membership from five school districts.

The membership of most such Interact Clubs is from one school, said past district governor Don Frohm. Other than the club inaugurated on Wednesday night, "We don't have a single Interact Club that encompasses more than one school," Frohm told a sizable crowd around the Silver Beach Carousel.

The new club has more than 60 members and includes students from St. Joseph High School, Benton Harbor High School, Lake Michigan Catholic High School, Michigan Lutheran High School and Countryside Academy.

"The future of Rotary is right here," Frohm said, looking at the students. "The future of our country is standing in front of us."

Berrien Trial Court Judge Charles LaSata, president of the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor, said Rotarians chose the five school districts in a "hands across the river, hands across the community" gesture.

"Because we have so many small municipalities in northern Berrien County, and the school districts are so close, the officers and directors of our club felt that it would be more appropriate to include all the schools in one Interact Club, and build relationships among the schools," LaSata said after the inauguration. "I'm very pleased with the results."

Club President Evan Hampton of St. Joseph High School in making introductions noted that club Director Jasmine Dortch, from Benton Harbor High School, was absent because she was playing in a district tournament basketball game. Hampton wished her luck.

"The kids, they just get along great," LaSata said later. "You heard the president from St. Joseph High School rooting for the officer from Benton Harbor High School playing in the districts this evening. I think the young people will build some really nice relationships and make friends in other schools."

What do the Interact Club members get out of it?

"The biggest thing for me is the community service and the networking, meeting all the Rotarians," Evan said after the meeting.

Other club officers include: vice president, Kayleigh Kibler, Lake Michigan Catholic; co-secretaries, Courtney Vorrath and Brandon Lucius, both of Michigan Lutheran High School; and director, Sean Carpenter, St. Joseph High School.

LaSata said the club is unique in another way - it was organized and chartered in less than a month - about a week and a half.

"No one had ever chartered a club in 12 days," LaSata said. That took some tall doing and a lot of help from the students, but they pulled it off, he said.

Interact is Rotary International's service club for youths 12-18 years old. The clubs normally undertake two service projects a year, one in their own communities and one internationally.

"I'm just amazed at how they've taken the ball the run with it," LaSata said after the inauguration. "And it's their club. We help them get started and got some thing set up for them, but they choose the direction."

Terry Allen of Lakeshore Rotary, district governor nominee, said the district has $10,000 in matching funds for money raised by district Interact Clubs for international projects. Rotary provides water filters for safe drinking water in countries that lack safe water.

February 19, 2010 - Business, Behind the Scenes

Story Credit: The Herald-Palladium
February 19, 2010

St. Joseph, Michigan – As a business executive, Jackie Huie has the means to introduce young people to a career path. But she’s just one person, with one business. Luckily, she’s also a member of a local Rotary Club whose members are involved in numerous businesses.

“Paula Dawning (former Benton Harbor Area Schools superintendent) was the inspiration behind this. It was her idea to line up several students with several business people,” said Huie, president of Johnson Rauhoff, a communications and marketing firm headquartered in St. Joseph.

Her conversation with Dawning led to creation of the Student Rotary Program, operated by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor. The program, developed by Huie with the support of Rotary Club President Art Fenrick and area educators, matches teens from St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Lake Michigan Catholic, and Michigan Lutheran high schools with Rotary Club members who can introduce them to various career tracks. The program debuted with a few students last year and this year is touching dozens.

“This is something I've always wanted to do,” said Amber Thomas, a senior at Benton Harbor High School, while exploring the inner workings of the Berrien County Sheriff's Department. She wants a career in either forensics or law. She and Marcus Bledsoe, a senior at Lake Michigan Catholic High School, recently spent the afternoon with Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey, exploring possible careers in law enforcement and forensics.

Brittney Gathing, a senior at Benton Harbor High School, participated in the tour, along with a Herald-Palladium photographer and reporter. Gathing is interested in a journalism career.

“When I first heard about this program, I went to a newspaper. I'd never interacted with anyone in that field. I'm excited about the different aspects of journalism. Next week I'm going to a TV station,” she said.

Bailey led the students on a tour of the jail, and Sgt. Mike Danneffel showed them the workings of the forensics lab. Thomas had a lot of questions, including whether Danneffel’s job is stressful, how much money he makes, and whether the job is “as exciting as you see on TV.”

Good forensic evidence helps police when they are called to testify in court, Bailey told the students. He talked about the importance of a sound education in addition to specific training in forensics.

“You're young. You want to do this right now. Get that four-year degree first. It'll pay off big time in the future,” Bailey advised the teens.

The sheriff explained to the students that when police officers pursue promotions, bachelor's and master's degrees give them extra points over other job candidates. Bledsoe said he has wanted to become a policeman since he was a freshman and participated in the Michigan Youth Leadership Academy run by the state police.

Ashley Moyer, a St. Joseph High School senior, recently shadowed a judge and lawyer at the Berrien County Courthouse. Other students have visited radio stations, accounting firms, medical facilities, and photography studios.

“The idea is to expose them to the business community,” Huie said. “I'm amazed at the number of students graduating in marketing who have never set foot in a marketing business, and the people I hire who realize it's not what they want to be doing. This is about exposing them early to the world they think they're interested in.”

Students are hosted at various businesses by senior-level managers, giving the teens the chance to either reinforce or rethink their chosen careers. After navigating an application process, students selected for the program have lunch with a Rotarian, then visit the executive's place of business. The students later report back to the Rotary Club about their experiences. Some of the Rotarians invite students back for more visits to their workplaces.

Bailey said he would be inviting his group back because he wanted to show them more facets of the sheriff’s department.

“Just about any career interest an area student might have can be found right here in Berrien County. There's no better collective group than Rotarians to pull together students and businesses,” Huie said.

The goal of the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor is to put about 50 students a year through the program. Huie said she plans to share the program with Rotary International to try to make it an international program.

March 20, 2009 - SJ-BH Rotary Club introduces students to local business, hopes they'll stick around

H-P Business Writer – March 20, 2009

St. Joseph — Michigan's economic pains have several causes, but “brain drain” is one of the most insidious.

Thousands of young people who grew up in Michigan are taking their talents and leaving the state for jobs in other places. But the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary Club is chipping in to stem the tide by introducing high school juniors and seniors to career opportunities in the Twin Cities area.

Jackie Huie, president of the St. Joseph advertising agency JohnsonRauhoff and chairwoman of Rotary’s Student Host Program, said those students might not have had much exposure to the career fields that interest them, they might be unsure of their options, or they might need some inspiration.

“We're not all teachers, counselors, or collegiate specialists, but we are specialists in our fields of business,” Huie said.

The Student Host Program will officially launch in the fall, but 15 students are participating in a pilot program this spring.

“It's amazing how willing everybody is to help," Huie said. "It's neat how these businesses are opening up their doors to these kids.”

Students in the program attend a Rotary luncheon, spend the afternoon touring an area business, and report back to club members at their next meeting.

Patrick Glowacki, a senior at Lake Michigan Catholic High School, spoke Monday about his experience at Abonmarche, an engineering and design firm based in Benton Harbor. Glowacki is planning to study engineering at the University of Michigan. He said it was interesting to see the large projects Abonmarche is working on in the area, such as the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course at Harbor Shores and the Silver Beach development below the bluff in St. Joseph. “It's good to know there's a lot of opportunity, even in St. Joe,” he said.

Erin Etter, a senior at St. Joseph High School, is interested in fashion merchandising, so she spent Monday afternoon at DK Boutique in downtown St. Joseph. “Even though it was just in a small town, it gave me insight into what the fashion world is like,” she said.

Etter, who will attend Hope College in the fall, said she will probably eventually end up back in St. Joseph, but would like to experience life in a big city such as Chicago or New York.

Another St. Joseph senior, Kyle Denny, met with Chris Ball, general manager of sales for Whirlpool Corp., at the appliance maker's world headquarters in Benton Township.

Denny, who will attend Michigan State University in the fall, said he is planning to pursue a math-related career like actuarial science or engineering. He said Ball gave him a memorable piece of advice: “Sometimes the people that learn the most are the people that go outside their comfort zone.”

Celia Zhang, another senior at St. Joseph, toured Whirlpool's Benton Harbor manufacturing plant with Rotary member J.C. Anderson, who retired as Whirlpool's senior vice president of manufacturing operations in 2007. She said learning about how Whirlpool coordinates activities between its different sites made her more interested in management.

“It was a really great experience. I would love it if more people were able to do it,” Zhang said. “It wasn't really time-consuming, but I feel like I have a much better grasp of the workforce.”


Melanie Schweir, University of Michigan, Rotary Student Program participant, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, 2015

“The Rotary Student Program through Saint Joseph High School was not only a way to meet well-established professionals within our community. Everyone was so accommodating in the program and I was aligned with my own personal goals to someday become a physician. As a senior, I was able to meet with a successful physician in the area and given the opportunity to ask questions about the difference between being a surgeon and a physician. Through the process, I gained a deeper understanding of the many aspects of what it is to be a physician, which better aligned with my interests. It was through that small peek into a life of a physician, that continued to drive me to pursue a medical degree. Four years later, that drive still continues, as I am in the middle of studying for, yet another, medical school exam.”

Eunike Phiri, Club President 2015-2016, Rotary Club of Lusaka Central, Zambia, 2015

"I am excited to have found details on your program on your website. I am looking to set up the program as my club’s signature project this year, in partnership with another Lusaka club."

Joseph Kasozi, District 9211, Rotary Club of Muyenga, Uganda, 2015

"This program shall play an important role in my country in member recruitment and retention as well as extension especially towards youth."

Alvin Davis, Guidance Counselor Benton Harbor High School, Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA, 2015

“During the 2008-10 school year, you were instrumental in assisting Amber Thomas, a Benton Harbor High School Student, through your Rotary Student Program. You allowed her to have career mentorship exposure with the Honorable Judge LaSata and with several prominent attorneys in our community. These experiences had a very positive impact on Amber, and I am certain that they helped her develop and determine her future career goals and objectives.

In 2014, Amber received a B.S. Degree in Chemistry from Central State University (Ohio), and then she elected to complete one year of service in the National Americorps Program. Amber recently told me that she has received acceptance letters from five different law schools and in August 2015, she will be matriculating at the Michigan State University College of Law.

Thank you for all of your support and assistance!”

Randy Reimers, President, 5/3 Bank, St. Joseph, Michigan, USA, 2015

“Overnight, my son, David, went from a kid to a man…this is how HUGE of an impact Jeff Fettig had on our son. What David took away from the meeting with Mr. Fettig, was life changing:

  • Everyday you should try to improve yourself
  • Don’t build a resume to look good, build a resume that makes you a better person
  • Whatever job you do, always give your best and be the best then ask for more work
  • Don’t worry about your next promotion, do your BEST now and the promotions will happen
  • Pick classes in college that you like and you will enjoy school and be able to have success

Results after the first semester at Michigan State University:

  • 4.00 and on the Dean’s List
  • Asked to be part of the Honors College
  • Marketing Chairman for the Broad College Program
  • One of 4 Freshman to earn a position on the Student Senate (from field of 178)
Randy Reimers, President, 5/3 Bank, St. Joseph, Michigan, USA, 2014

"Thank you! As a quick follow-up, my son David was given an internship with Whirlpool this summer. This would not have happened without you and JC Anderson advising him. The internship went great and after his report out he was offered a full-time job. He will be going back to Michigan State to finish his senior year and then next summer he is going to be part of Whirlpools Real World sales program.

THANK YOU for your help, support and advice!"

A new Rotarian, whose son and program participant, David Reimers, was mentored by Whirlpool, CEO, Jeff Fettig

Dave Diffendal, Professional Radio Broadcaster, Ohio, USA, 2013

"My name is Dave Diffendal and I’m a Rotarian from Cleveland Ohio. I host a weekly radio show that highlights the work of Rotarians in our region - Northeast Ohio - as well as around the world. It's broadcast on AM 1330 - WELW as well as through a podcast. I read about your work on the Showcase at the RI website and was wondering if you'd be interested in calling as a guest on the show. Your topic of working with and mentoring high school students is right in line with what Rotary is about. I feel it's very timely and I'd love to have you tell your story."

To listen click HERE

David Reimers, Michigan State University, MI, USA, 2013

David Reimers with Jeff Fettig (CEO of Whirlpool) and his father, Randy.
David Reimers with Jeff Fettig (CEO of Whirlpool) and his father, Randy.

David Reimers with Jeff Fettig (CEO of Whirlpool) and Jackie Huie.
David Reimers with Jeff Fettig (CEO of Whirlpool) and Jackie Huie.

Nitin Mangaldas, District 3140, Rotary Past District Governor 2003-04, Mumbai, 2012

"This is a great program. I have seen it at close quarters during my visit to U.S. last year. I have spoken to the students involved. This program can have long reaching results for students' careers/future as well as benefit communities in the long run."

Sent after 2011 visit to the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor, USA

Kalyan Banerjee, President, Rotary International 2011-2012, 2012

“It was, of course, a pleasure to connect with Jackie and Grant in my office last week. Jackie is obviously a very committed Rotarian.”

Referencing February 2, 2012 Rotary International Headquarters meeting discussing steps for global expansion of the Rotary Student Program, with program founder and chair, Jackie Huie and her then 12-year old son, Grant Huie

Ron Sekkel, Past District Governor, California, 2012

"I was the President's Representative to the District Conference in East Lansing on May 31 to June 2 this last year. I am the emcee and producer of the opening program here in California for the Rotary Zones 25 & 26 Institute and I think that I may want to include her program which will give it visibility...Rotary International President Elect Ron Burton will be here and showing that video might have an effect on getting it known in many areas of the Rotary World."

Referencing the Rotary Student Program video presented at District 6360 Rotary District Conference, by Founding Program Chairman, Jackie Huie

Dave Labrecque, Senior Executive Respiratory Specialist, Merck and Company Inc., 2012

"I wanted to just take a moment to let you know that I had a chance to meet with Meghan Landeck and Linda Beushausen today in St. Joe. While I hope that it was helpful for Meghan to chat with me for an hour or so, I want to let you know that it was truly a pleasure for me. Talking with fine young people like Meghan always seems to restore my faith in the future of our country. Meghan is a bright, articulate young lady with lots of promise for any future endeavors that she may choose to pursue. Meghan came to our meeting and presented herself with class and confidence. She was well prepared with good questions for me, which led to a robust discussion on a variety of topics. I would also like to thank Linda for taking the time to escort Meghan, and for taking an active role in our meeting.

I think what you are doing with the Rotary Student Program is terrific, and it is my pleasure to be involved in this small way."

Jeri DiBrito, Counselor, Lake Michigan Catholic High School, Michigan, 2012

"Thank you for setting this up for the girls. The program this year is outstanding. The students that have been a part of the Rotary Student Program so far this year have all enjoyed it. James Servillas had a great time yesterday at the airport. Thanks for all you do and also to the Rotary Club."

Cathleen Guldan, Parent of Student Participant, Michigan

“These are wonderful programs and we are blessed to have such a dedicated group of adults supporting our children.”

Felicia Gondrezick, School Liaison, Benton Harbor High School, Michigan

This pathway of “vocational technology” has carved out options inside of possibilities! There's no space for false realities appearing real for these Rotarian recipients. They are learning factual discoveries about career fields relevant to their future. AWESOME PROGRAM!! Congratulations to those selected! Thanks MENTORS for “servicing the future.”

Paul Netzel, Past District Governor and Chairman Rotary International Vocational Services

Great article, Jackie. Thanks for your enthusiastic and persistent leadership. This is a terrific program worthy of consideration of Rotary Clubs everywhere.

Rachael Kuehn, Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Hi. I am Rachael Kuehn, a 2009 graduate from Lake Michigan Catholic High School, and a current senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My senior year of high school, I had the opportunity to participate in the St. Joseph Rotary’s job shadow program, where I met with Mr. Huie, of Whirlpool, in order to learn more about a career in business, more specifically, international business. As a senior in high school, I was clueless as to what career I would want to pursue once I started college, and the job shadow program gave me the opportunity to further explore my interests and possible career choices.

When I met with Mr. Huie he had just returned from a business trip to China, and I remember being fascinated by the many trips that he had taken to China and to other parts of the world on behalf of Whirlpool. During my visit I was able to obtain a better understanding of what he did on these business trips, why they were important, and what working with people from a different culture would entail. The second half of my visit I was able to tour his office as well as talk with a few of his co-workers. This was beneficial to me because for the first time I was able to experience what it would be like working for a large international corporation such as Whirlpool.

While I did not decide to apply to the School of Business until my sophomore year at Madison, I always had business in the back of my mind, and I was continuously comparing other experiences to my one at Whirlpool with Mr. Huie. When applying to the School of Business, I was able to talk about my experience with the job shadow, more specifically I was able to highlight how my skill-set and future goals would be compatible in a work culture such as the one that I experienced at Whirlpool. Seeing as the application process for the School of Business, like many other programs at my university, falls before most students have the opportunity to obtain an internship in their field of interest, because of my experience at Whirlpool with Mr. Huie, I was able to confidently state in my application not only that I wanted to pursue a career in business, but that I could also see myself having a successful business career.

In the Fall of 2013, I will graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Finance, Investment & Banking and International Business. I recently returned from Buenos Aires, Argentina where I spent six months studying Spanish, International Business, and Economics abroad at the University of Buenos Aires. This experience like my first experience with business through the St. Joseph student job shadow program was another step to building a strong foundation for a future successful business career.

Thank you! And Go Badgers!


Research on Volunteerism, 2012
  • A study of adults age 65 and older found that the positive effect of volunteering on physical and mental health is due to the personal sense of accomplishment that an individual gains from his or her volunteer activities. (Herzog et al., 1998)
  • Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose, as found in a study of older adults; according to this study, formal volunteering moderated the loss of a sense of purpose among older adults who had experienced the loss of major role identities, such as wage-earner and parent (Greenfield and Marks, 2004)
  • A study of older adults found that participation in community service was more strongly correlated with life satisfaction for retirees than for those individuals who continued to work for pay. (Harlow and Cantor, 1996)
Jackie Huie, Rotary Student Program Founder and Chair, 2011

"I don't know where this came from, but it means something to me; You can change the world by changing the life of one child."

Rotary Student Program Founder and Chair, Jackie Huie, in email to her father, Founder and CEO of JohnsonRauhoff, Don Johnson, who oversees the creative agency that donates all program communications

Yogi Berra quote posted by Chad Mandarino, Upton Middle School Principle, St. Joseph, Michigan, 2015

"If you don't know where you are going, you might end up someplace else." -Yogi Berra