When young adults think of career choices, energy companies rarely make it to the top of their list. For the second consecutive year, Consumers Energy has teamed up with the Detroit Pistons to help non-trendy career options get a little more appreciation.
In February, the company sponsored and participated in Black History Month Rick Mahorn’s Scholarship Event, where the Pistons pull in high school students from Detroit and Flint to give them an opportunity to showcase their art and career aspirations. To kick off March and Women’s History Month, the same group participated in the Girls Dream Big Summit, reaching 125 middle and high school aged girls. That event featured a panel discussion, speed networking with executives, among other activities.
Reaching students in a unique way might be what motivated the partnership, but the opportunity to learn from those same students has been just as valuable for leaders at Consumers Energy. As a panelist for the Black History Month Rick Mahorn’s Scholarship Event held at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Windy Coles, director of Customer Billing for Consumers Energy, was able to see the creativity of students first-hand. The February event brought together high school seniors from Detroit and Flint to perform using their chosen artistic medium or present their art to a panel of community leaders, which included Coles.
“I appreciated the way the students utilized their stories and art to show how they were overcoming, not how they are victims,” said Coles. “If this is an example of what their thinking is like, as a community, we are prepared. We just need to continue to regularly invest in these youth.”
Chief Diversity Officer for Consumers Energy, Angela Thompkins felt much the same a few weeks later as she participated in the Girls Dream Big Summit. A panel discussion with other community leaders and speed networking with young women from high schools around Detroit was held at the Pistons practice facility.
The dreams they talked about were big. The questions they had for Thompkins were bigger.
“I was personally inspired by the depth of questions the girls were asking. Things like what does it takes to be successful, how to figure out what career path or entrepreneurial idea to pursue. Sometimes in that situation, young women don’t know how to ask the tough questions, but these girls did,” said Thompkins.
For both women, the commitment by the company to strategically reach out to African American students was meaningful.
“It is so important for girls and students to dream. It’s important to me as an African American woman to show girls that dreams are important because they need that real life picture of what a potential career can look like for them,” said Thompkins.
While the Rick Mahorn Scholarship Event Coles was part of was different, it was no less impactful. In fact, many of the questions were similar to what young women were asking Thompkins. It even included a few selfies with the students so they could share who they met with.
“It was meaningful to the youth there because many approached afterward to ask about her experience, it really touched my heart,” said Coles. “I was proud that I could be someone to help the youth understand what their future could look like and feel like. While I was there to judge their
creativity and their boldness, I felt like they saw me as someone who has been able to turn some impossibilities into possibilities.”
Sponsoring events like Black History Month Rick Mahorn’s Scholarship Event and the Girls Dream Big Summit are just some of the ways Consumers Energy lives our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. We’ve taken a stand to create equitable, sustainable change by deploying $15 million by the end of 2023 to support social justice initiatives throughout Michigan. Examples of that commitment in action include: