ALPENA – A unique new fund has been established at the Iosco County Community Foundation (ICCF) that will provide funding for a full-time Career Development Coordinator. The Community Development Coordinator will be committed to helping students at Tawas Area Schools with career and/or college readiness.
Mary Jeanne Klenow, of Midland, established the “Henry L. and Bernice M. Klenow Fund” to honor her parents, and, to give back to a community she says has given her so much. Ms. Klenow grew up in East Tawas and graduated from Tawas Area High School. Her hometown, and the people in it, hold a special place in Ms. Klenow’s heart. The new fund is a permanent endowment fund that will help provide for the full-time salary, administrative costs, and programming expenses of a Career Development Coordinator at Tawas Area Schools. The Career Development Coordinator will be an employee of the Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency (NEMSCA); Brian Colorite was hired for this position and began in August.
“I wanted to support what I consider to be ‘home’, and my hope is that once a student leaves high school or college, they will be doing whatever work they’re passionate about – something they love,” says Ms. Klenow. “It’s like planting seeds, isn’t it? Seeds for the world to be a better place.”
Ms. Klenow, 94, connected with the Iosco County Community Foundation (ICCF) through ICCF Board President, Cliff Miller, whom she has known for many years. Cliff connected Ms. Klenow to Foundation staff and community leaders. After two years of meetings, planning, and researching, it was decided that Ms. Klenow wished to assist students in finding paths to successful lives after high school. Ms. Klenow decided on establishing this fund to help students from her hometown.
“Over the course of many conversations, we discovered that there were limited resources for students desiring to explore options post-high school. There are good things being done by our school system, but there are also so many kids to try to help,” says Cliff Miller. “Part of the vision for Mary Jeanne’s fund is that this private-public collaboration becomes a successful and replicable model that can eventually be adopted by other schools and communities to be deployed locally, regionally, and hopefully even nationally. Our goal is that students are equipped with the fundamentals that translate directly into success for the next phase of their lives. It’s amazing to see this incredible gift come to fruition, knowing that it is going to be making an impact immediately.”
The Career Development Coordinator will work closely with students in grades 8-12, and their parents, with the goal of creating a sense of readiness and preparation for post-secondary success.
Brian Colorite, the first to be employed because of this fund, says there is often so much information that it can be overwhelming for students and parents to navigate. He says that being focused on one school, working closely with a larger number of students, will have a massive impact on students being “ready” for life after high school.
“It will be great to have someone to help navigate all the things that are changing – colleges, their programs, technologies, things that are different now than they were 20 years ago. There’s so much that’s changed in such a small amount of time. And then you have students that may not have access to any information at all if they have no internet at home; their parents never went to school; whatever the case. One of the goals is to give students access to someone who can help them navigate a career assessment, figure out how to pay for college, join the military, or whatever they decide on, and to start thinking about these things and preparing for them earlier on. This is going to be a game changer for a lot of these students.”
Colorite will also be helping students with topics like career exploration; career research and planning; essential skills like time management, leadership, digital literacy, public speaking, and resume writing; internships and job shadowing; financial literacy and entrepreneurship; professionalism and workplace etiquette; and many other topics that will help students to be prepared for their next steps after they graduate high school, and confident in their own future plans.
Ms. Klenow says she is excited and hopeful to learn how this program helps students down the road. Of the knowledge of how this fund will impact future generations of Tawas youth she says, “It’s better than anything I could have imagined. Knowing that we’ve planted these seeds, and that we’ll help these wonderful people grow and become what they’re meant to be, it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Ms. Klenow enjoyed a teaching career that included positions in Oscoda, Alpena, Tawas, and Midland, where she taught until her retirement in 1984. She also spent three years early in her career teaching U.S. students in England and Germany following the end of World War II. She believes strongly that nobody is meant to just sit around and do nothing if they can help it.
Having worked at Klenow’s Market in East Tawas, which her grandparents, and then parents owned, Ms. Klenow developed a strong work ethic. She learned about investing and the importance of saving from her brother and through her own schooling; and she learned about giving back early on from her parents.
“My parents did everything for me. They paid my bills right out of college, and really helped me get going in life. I owe them for that. That’s why I named the fund after them,” says Ms. Klenow.
Now that this fund has been established, anyone can give to it at any time, and in any amount.
“Our hope is that the Tawas area communities will see the value in this and choose to direct some of their own charitable giving to the Henry L. and Bernice M. Klenow Fund,” says Miller. “The seed has been planted. The more support this fund has, the faster and stronger it will grow to support Tawas area students.”
Photos: Top: Mary Jeanne Klenow; Middle, left to right: Cliff Miller, Mary Jeanne Klenow, and Brian Colorite