Student leaders benefit from SLFP

Ellen Holmes

NMU has had leadership classes and programs since the 1980s, but it wasn’t until 1990 that a grant through the Kellogg Youth Initiatives Program funded the concept of “the ideal leadership development program.” This then became the Student Leader Fellowship Program (SLFP).

Once the grant ended, the NMU foundation office funded the programmatic costs for the SLFP at $20,000, but when the economy took a turn in 2008, the foundation was no longer able to provide the funding.  While the foundation office was still able to contribute $10,000 last year, fundraising has remained the main source of funding for the SLFP according to Rachel Harris, director of the center for student enrichment.

From a tuition raffle to care packages and campus planners, the SLFP has found ways to fund program retreats, goods and other expenses.

The SLFP is a nationally recognized two-year program that utilizes a community-based approach to promote leadership in students, according to Dave Bonsall, retired director of the center for student enrichment and one of the founders of the SLFP.

“A strong focus for the program has been the incredible symbiotic relationship with the surrounding community that has embraced the SLFP,” Bonsall said. “A total of 652 community members have served as leadership mentors to students in their first year, and many of them have done so on more than one occasion.”

Brooke Linn, an SLFP member, said the mentor program was very beneficial for her success in the program.

“My mentor has been incredibly important to me,” Linn said. “She helped me decide on my community service internship, and gave me all the tools and personal connections I needed to succeed.”

The program currently accepts 50 to 60 new members each year, who work to fund a large portion of the $38,000 program costs. Harris said the SLFP would like to assist students financially toward their community service internships.

“Sometimes the student fellows are paying for that out of their pocket, so we would love to have a little money to assist with,” Harris said.

Additional funding the program receives comes from the endowment fund, named after Bonsall, which holds almost $250,000 and has received donations from over 600 individuals. The fund allows the program to be self-sufficient, with extra fundraising earnings placed into the fund for future use.

“The SLFP alumni are still relatively young, but as they start making more money and get a little older I think we will see our donations increase,” Harris said.

Over 900 students have completed the program, representing SLFP on campus, in the community and as NMU graduates around the world, according to Bonsall.

“We hope that students, through this program, understand their potential, grow as leaders and hopefully, wherever they live, will jump into their communities and do similar things as SLFP,” Harris said.