By: Jennifer Collins
The first time I met Megan she was soft spoken with a genuine smile. Megan Collins is this year’s Allegan County Community Foundation Hobbs Intern. Well, what is a Hobbs intern? Elaine Hobbs of Otsego wanted to impact youth, when she passed away, she left directives in her will that named the TAG Team of the Allegan County Community Foundation as the recipient of her estate. The TAG Team is the youth advisory council of the Foundation. Students ages 12 to 21 years old from all around Allegan County meet twice a month during the school year. Their activities include community service, grant making, awarding a TAG scholarship and all-around youth leadership. Elaine was not known to the Foundation. She heard of the work of the TAG Team while working on her will with her attorney. The gift of Elaine’s estate resulted in over $120,000 to establish a fund overseen by the TAG Team for the benefit of their peers. Annually, the fund supports youth leadership opportunities for Allegan County youth including the summer Hobbs internships.
Megan had never heard of the Foundation or the TAG Team until a former TAG member asked a teacher who she would recommend joining TAG. The teacher stated Megan would be great fit, so with that a text message went out to her and she joined the TAG Team her freshman year of high school and has been an active member for four years, graduating this past summer.
Megan quickly understood that listening and genuine respect for others is instilled and demanded of each and every TAG member, something that comes very natural for her. She told me about some of the differences between schools and different age levels of those on the TAG Team. Racial diversity is something some students are very familiar with and others are not. Students in certain school districts have all forms and paperwork in both English and Spanish. Different levels of maturity and topics of concerns make for one to be a good listener and helping to see others point of view. She also noted that there are some differences in male versus female viewpoints, but overall students have an alikeness.
Megan is a 5th year student at Allegan High School. She applied for the (13-year) program her sophomore year. She has really enjoyed the program which will allow her to receive a Business Associates degree at the end of her 13th year. Megan plans to go into American Sign Language after earning her Associates. Megan learned to sign songs at her church. A young man who was hearing impaired starting dancing once he saw Megan and her church group signing to a song. This was a powerfully moving moment for Megan and her desire to enter this unique field. Megan has brought her signing talent to the Camp Lake Louise talent show in recent years as well, and we hope to have her sign our opening welcome at our next ACCF Grant Awards event.
Megan stated she knows first-hand the TAG Team impacts her community. Community service, grants and scholarships are a big part of how these students learn, grow and engage in their county. She believes there is potential for the TAG Team’s impact to grow beyond Allegan County, as they are working on a kindness calendar and it may reach well beyond Michigan.
Megan has learned about giving, community service and the philanthropic spirit while on the TAG Team and believes she will continue with the knowledge into adulthood. She hopes that once she is established in her job to find ways to give back because she knows the impact it has on community members.
Fifty thousand dollars is the approximate amount of grant dollars the TAG Team awards every year. These grants are for non-profits who serve youth in Allegan County. This process is very intense and personal for Megan and the other TAG members. When she receives the grant applications she reads through each very carefully and then uses her own scale of what is needed in Allegan County. Each TAG member brings their priority list, points of views and begin the vetting process. Everyone has different views and the students fight for what they believe in. There is a lot of discussion and give and take in the process of awarding grants. The TAG team strives to have balanced coverage of needs for youth throughout the county and make sure each non-profit is fiscally responsible. These are not easy decisions and this grant making process teaches the members real world skills.
The TAG scholarship process is similar to grants, whereas the TAG members receive the applications and each review them individually. Once the team discusses all the applications, (based largely on community services, an essay and partially grades) the team comes to decision on what candidates they would like to interview in person. The TAG team invites a select number of students for a roundtable interview, they are very mindful of how nervous an applicant can be so they (the TAG team and applicants) always do an “icebreaker” before each interview. Megan believes this helps the student relax a bit. Each TAG member asks a question of the applicants and at the end of the interviews the team convenes to decide who will receive the $1,000 scholarship. Megan and the TAG team love to hear about the community service students are doing in their county. She was very impressed a few years back by a young lady who volunteered at Holland Hospital on a weekly basis. She wanted to enter the medical field and took it upon herself to do this. Megan also has been impressed with the many cool and interesting community service projects Boy Scouts do when going for their Eagle badge.
Megan had applied for the Hobbs internship since her sophomore year knowing it would come with great experiences. Her summer has been great so far. She states she has learned a lot behind the scenes, all the paperwork, check processing and marketing. She likes the ACCF office and thinks it is fun unless she is doing shredding. She enjoyed creating our front window displays (which look awesome) and her Excel spreadsheet knowledge has been a great asset. She is a quick learner and has gained a lot of experience that will help her in her future endeavors.
I have seen Megan come out of her shell while working here. She is a kind, intelligent and thoughtful person. She is still a bit shy, but that is true to who she is – but let me tell you – do not underestimate her, she has great insight, will state her opinion and is a person who will make a difference in the world.
Megan will part ways with us at the end of August as she will head back to Allegan High School for her 13th year and getting that Associates degree. We have enjoyed our time with her, and we hope she will visit us during the school year. We can’t wait to see what you do and how you will impact this community, county, state and world.