GRAND RAPIDS – Mercantile Bank has launched the Mentoring, Aspiring, Preparing program and, in partnership with Grand Valley State University, a scholarship, providing students with assistance with educational expenses while exposing them to careers in banking.
MAP is a leadership development program that will provide four years of professional and personal development in conjunction with a student’s college curriculum. Priority for program applicants will be given to students from historically marginalized and underrepresented groups. The Mercantile Bank Business Scholarship provides selected first-year GVSU students with an annual award of $15,000, providing them with up to $60,000 over their college career.
Current freshmen Kamarion Craig, Nadia Miller and Darian Quinn have been selected for the program’s pilot year. Each student received a $15,000 scholarship and a paid internship at Mercantile’s headquarters on Leonard Street in Grand Rapids.
Robert Kaminski, Mercantile’s chief executive, said the bank has strong co-op and college internship programs in high school, but leaders are looking for ways to improve leadership development components and continue to promote diversity, l equity and inclusion within the industry.
“At Mercantile, we are committed to empowering people to take charge of their financial future,” Kaminski said. “The MAP program and the Mercantile Bank Business Scholarship are designed to help students gain the equitable access required to succeed. We are thrilled that GVSU is just as passionate as we are about providing students with leadership skills, both inside and outside the classroom. »
For Craig, Miller, and Quinn, the scholarship certainly eased the financial burdens they and their families felt when the initial tuition bills for the fall 2021 semester started rolling in.
“Before I was selected for this program, I had planned to live at home,” said Quinn, a graduate business student from East Kentwood High School. “Thanks to this scholarship, I can live on the Grand Valley campus.
As part of her internship, Miller helped read essays submitted by area sixth- through twelfth-graders who entered the City of Grand Rapids Rosa Parks Scholarship Competition. “It’s been a great experience to see what the students think and to know that they will receive this scholarship,” said Miller, who majored in business and entrepreneurship and graduated from East Kentwood High School.
Soon, students will be matched with mentors. Misti Stanton, Vice President, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said there is no shortage of Mercantile volunteers.
“Mentors will work with students to answer questions and provide meaningful experiences in various banking departments,” Stanton said. “Not only will they work with their mentors to gain valuable knowledge, but they will have the support and encouragement of the entire Mercantile team.”
Aaron Lowen, Professor of Economics and Chair of Finance, serves as an additional advisor to students and will connect them to academic resources and extracurricular initiatives at Seidman College of Business.
“As these students explore careers in business and economics, they will discover the wide variety of academic, social and professional opportunities available, and will have the opportunity to engage with our business partners during career events,” Lowen said.
Like his peers, Craig enjoyed working with Stanton and others at Mercantile and learning about the banking industry. He said the scholarship opportunity was presented to him when he was about to graduate from City High Middle School.
“It was the end of my senior year and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. There was a lot going on at that time,” he said. “Now I’m on campus and my mom is so proud of me. I am the second person in our family to go to university and I am setting an example for my brother.
Stanton said that was the exact reason Mercantile started this program.
“When you talk about equity and setting people up for success, graduating with less debt and measurable work experience is an important part of helping students launch successful careers and give back to their communities,” she said.