Kettering University students, FirstMerit Bank team up to make improvements to Flint’s Ballenger Park

“We want the students to feel like they can embrace the park and be a part of its legacy. It can become a focal point for the adjacent neighborhoods. As an open space, it is a lovely area inside the city"

A group of Kettering University students want to make a lasting impact in their local community, starting with a park near campus.

Kettering’s Student Association of Global Engineering (SAGE) has partnered with FirstMerit Bank to help beautify and clean up Flint’s Ballenger Park. On April 16, Kettering students, with the supervision of the IMA Recreation Association and FirstMerit staff members, installed benches - which were designed by the students - around the basketball court.

“The main purpose of this project is just to improve this park that’s in the middle of Flint and make it a place where people feel comfortable,” said Jacob Bacheldor ‘18. “I think a safe and attractive park is a good way to bring people to know each other.”

FirstMerit, trustee of the William S. Ballenger Trust, which owns the park and is funding the project, is happy to partner with the students and make a difference in the park and the community, said Thomas Mitchell, senior vice president at FirstMerit in Flint.

“We’ve gotten to know about a dozen students through the process. What we find is that each one of them brings their own perspective. Being engineers, they are looking at it more analytically,” Mitchell said. “We want the students to feel like they can embrace the park and be a part of its legacy. It can become a focal point for the adjacent neighborhoods. As an open space, it is a lovely area inside the city that’s been preserved for the enjoyment of the whole community.”

The William S. Ballenger Trust was created in the 1920s when the Ballenger family set aside the space for Ballenger Park and Memorial Park. The industrialist and philanthropist William S. Ballenger was one of the directors of Flint Wagon Works and a General Motors co-founder.

Ballenger Park is mostly a green space with a pavilion built several years ago and a basketball court that was recently resurfaced.

“With the assistance of neighborhood associations that border the park and Kettering we are trying to bring back the vitality of the park,” Mitchell said. “The Grand Traverse District Neighborhood Association adopted Memorial Park and it’s that inspiration we are hoping to now shift over to Ballenger Park. We are in debt to Jack Stock, director of external relations at Kettering, and his enthusiasm, engaging the students and the whole University Avenue Corridor Coalition.”

Commercial-grade grills, some picnic tables and trash cans will also be added to the park. On Saturday, Kettering students also helped clean up litter, plant trees and paint existing benches.

In the future, the hope is to have a walking path and equipment for younger children in the community to play on. The park could be used for educational purposes, a place for community events and other activities.

“Saturday is the first step in that direction,” Mitchell said. “The two parks were set aside to provide a public space for the community to enjoy for recreation, for community activities or for family gatherings. It’s a space that was carved out in the city for the community itself to embrace. The parks have been serving that purpose for nearly 100 years.”

SAGE is a student based club based at Kettering University that emphasizes improving the quality of life for groups of people through engineering solutions. Approximately seven Kettering students have been heavily engaged in the Ballenger Park project. The SAGE group consists of a total of 18 people.

“The purpose of SAGE is to try and engineer a better future, while providing ourselves with a better knowledge of engineering and at the same time helping the Flint community and the global community,” Bacheldor said.

The SAGE group combines its philanthropy and engineering knowledge to create a lasting impact on those who need it. From installing water cisterns in South Africa, to park revitalizations in Flint, or to building ramps in Flint, the students have many projects to be proud of.

The students are currently committed to traveling to South Dakota for a week to build as many ramps as possible.

On May 6, the members of SAGE plan to hold a Festival of Color event in Ballenger Park as a fundraiser for the group. There will be live music, while attendees get covered with brightly colored powders, Bacheldor said.

Registration for the event is $10 per person. With registration participants will receive a t-shirt, wristband, color powder and a raffle ticket. The event starts at 5 p.m. with the color throw starting at 6:15 p.m. The Flint Taco Truck will also be in the area.

SAGE is unable to accept online payments, but those interested can register online and pay at the event, or for Kettering students, on campus in the Great Court during lunches.

For more information or to register visit

“It’s a fun event. We want to come together as a community,” he said. “We want to bring some added joy to people’s lives.”