2024 Education Excellence Award Winners

Each year, the SET SEG Foundation hosts the Education Excellence Awards in partnership with the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB), granting funds to public school programs that change lives and impact students’ futures. In addition to the $2,500 grant, award recipients receive an “Education Excellence Winner” road sign and commemorative trophy to proudly display their accomplishments in the community.

And the winners are…

Detroit Public Schools

The Drew Horticulture Program serves special needs students and creates hands-on experiences that translate to adult life and career readiness. Students learn how to grow and tend fruits and vegetables, providing their crops to the school cafeteria, an in-school farm stand, food banks, and a stand at the Detroit Eastern Market. The program even offers opportunities to learn marketing and sales through selling produce to local restaurants.

Dundee Community Schools

Peer to Peer Celebrations connects autistic students with their peers, allowing them to build relationships and learn from each other. This partnership in the classroom creates an environment that celebrates equality and friendship, with students spending time together in class, at recess, and during lunch. Students, ages four-years-old to fourth grade, learn social-emotional skills, empathy, and kindness.

Ewen-Trout Creek Consolidated Schools

The Panther Den Community Caring Cart is a donation-based clothing closet serving students and the greater Ewen community since 2017. The Panther Den is filled with new and used clothing in all sizes and personal hygiene items, organized by volunteers, and displayed so that those in need can “shop” with dignity for items to fit their needs. When students and community members’ basic needs are met, their confidence and achievements in and out of the classroom continue to increase and benefit.

Glen Lake Community Schools

Essential Rotations is a series of classes middle school students take each year that promote social-emotional learning, social awareness, ethics, and self-management. Each grade level focuses on a different element of learning.

  • Sixth-grade students take the Hug Your Brain course, learning about self-awareness, mental health, and how to work with their peers to collaborate and problem-solve.
  • Seventh graders learn about social media, awareness, and dilemmas, focusing on developing their identity, ethical decision-making, and respecting other’s perspectives.
  • Eighth-grade students take woodshop, which is a creative approach to teaching self-management through responsibility, self-discipline, and goal planning and achievement.

This series of classes helps students learn more about themselves and their mental health and allows them to develop into their best selves safely and securely.

Grand Ledge Public Schools

The annual STEAM Showcase at Beagle Middle School highlights the projects that art and STEM students complete during the school year. About 400 students create over 2,000 exhibits including everything from simple machines and interactive prototypes to multimedia art displays throughout the school. Last year, the theme was based on the hit Netflix show “Stranger Things,” and over 250 students, families, faculty, and community members attended to see the installations created by the middle school students.

Lakeshore School District

Each spring, Hollywood Elementary students and staff come together to give back to the school and community, learning social responsibility, kindness, and charity. Students participate in a variety of projects like decorating lunch sacks for Meals on Wheels, weeding garden beds at local businesses and schools, making blankets for nursing home residents, and creating baby bags for new mothers. Children develop their social-emotional skills and can apply STEAM learning to create their projects.

Oakland Schools

Farm-to-Fork is a collaboration at Oakland Schools Technical Campus between the Agriscience & Environmental Technology and Culinary Arts/Hospitality program. For five weeks, the agriscience students raise 24 chickens, entering their top 12 largest chickens into a competition. Following the competition, the students present the progression of raising chickens to their culinary arts peers, who then receive the processed chickens to use in the kitchen and teach the agriscience students to break down and prepare a meal with the chickens raised.

Rogers City Area Schools

The School Garden is an integral part of the botany class at the high school, providing hands-on learning as well as fresh produce for the school cafeteria. The program utilizes the garden as an opportunity for students to learn about plant biology, environmental science, and sustainability, reinforcing their academic concepts with real-life experiences. The plans for the program include growing the greenhouse to produce even more crops to sustain the cafeteria and expanding the variety of produce grown throughout the year.

St. Charles Community Schools

This year, the Beautification Day program celebrates 50 years of supporting the St. Charles community, with thousands of students contributing over the program’s tenure. Originally started as an Earth Day cleanup, students now go out and serve their community by completing projects like litter clean up, planting flowers and trees, and even building birdhouses and benches. Students from grades 7-12 apply STEAM concepts to their projects, combining academics with social responsibility and stewardship. This program has grown to involve generations of families and learners as the community comes together to support each other.

St. Johns Public Schools

LINKS is an inclusive education program that caters to the diverse and unique needs of all students regardless of their abilities. At St. Johns Middle School, special needs students are paired up with other students to create a support system in and outside of school. This program increases academic achievement and social-emotional development for all students involved, creating lifelong friendships and connections.

Donate to the Education Excellence Awards

Did you know you can sponsor a scholarship or grant through the SET SEG Foundation? If you want to support impactful programs like the Education Excellence Awards, donate today!

5 Reasons to Work with SET SEG

A: We’re NOT Your Typical Insurance Company

We are a risk management partner comprised of public schools—not a for-profit corporation.

Our members are part of a Property/Casualty Pool and a Workers’ Compensation Fund, meaning member districts are our shareholders. This also means the premium we collect belongs to our members, so when a surplus exists, those funds are given back in the form of net asset returns and premium reductions. Additionally, we provide Employee Benefit services to help our member districts take control of their healthcare costs and identify creative solutions to provide employees with high-quality benefits options.

Protecting public schools is a risky endeavor, and in Michigan, where the summers are short and the winters are freezing, providing affordable and quality coverage can be a challenge.

As our schools face these challenges, we like to remind them one thing: they’re not alone.

From our corporate programs and workplace culture to our philanthropic efforts through the Foundation, SET SEG sets itself apart in the insurance industry by putting schools first and employing talent with that same mindset.

5 Reasons to Work With SET SEG

1. We Encourage Professional Growth

Career growth is a journey, and whether that looks like a lateral move, a promotion, or even completely shifting departments, SET SEG works to foster an environment that allows employees to learn and grow as their career vision evolves.

By providing exposure to all facets of the insurance industry across the organization and relying strongly on collaboration, our team is offered opportunities to venture beyond their initial job description, whether that be through professional development, establishing new networking connections, or gaining experience in a different facet of the industry.

“In my experience at SET SEG, the organization truly invests in the person and not just the job that person is filling,” said Emorie Bond, former intern and now SET SEG Marketing Coordinator. “If you show interest and aptitude in other areas of the business, there are opportunities to explore options beyond your current position.”

2. We Are A Team

At SET SEG, everyone is working toward the same goal – to put Michigan’s public schools first. With less than 100 employees serving schools throughout the state, our close-knit staff have become a part of the education communities in which they work. Many of them were even former employees of the school districts they work with now.

“When I was a superintendent, I wish I had known just how much support and expertise SET SEG has and how well protected our school district was because we were a member of their programs,” said Greg Gray, Employee Benefits Sales Manager. “This organization is different because schools are all we do. From its creation more than 50 years ago to now, the people at SET SEG have committed their time, expertise, and resources into helping schools succeed.”

3. We Reinvest in Michigan Communities

In almost every aspect of our organization, we give back monetarily to our member school districts, and not just in our work collectively. Each department gets to see firsthand how Michigan’s public schools benefit from what we do every day, offering our employees a level of fulfillment not always prevalent in the insurance industry.

“I love that the work I do helps to affordably protect public schools from the risks they are facing on a daily basis, in turn allowing them to focus more on what matters most – educating the students of Michigan,” said Stephanie Anderson, SET SEG Underwriting and Loss Control Manager.

Click here to view 12 ways we give back and how this philosophy fits into our core values as a company.

4. We Prioritize Relationships Over Revenue

For SET SEG, building trust and lasting relationships with school administrators comes first over making the sale. In fact, it’s so ingrained in our workplace culture, we often employ former school district employees to ensure we continue to deliver the resources and guidance our members are looking for.

“For those of us in sales at SET SEG, we aren’t working for a commission,” said Paul Grienke, Insurance Education Specialist. “For us, it’s about putting the time into learning what a school district’s unique needs are and establishing that relationship with the administrators, so we have their trust in delivering the services and resources they need when they need them.”

5. We Offer Opportunity

SET SEG nurtures a culture of engagement. Employees’ voices are heard, and work exists on a collaborative plain. If you’re interested in joining the team in supporting Michigan’s public schools, click to view job opportunities available now!

SET SEG Makes the List: Best Places to Work

To deliver on all five of the elements listed here that sets SET SEG apart from others in the industry, we rely heavily on feedback – from school administrators, from our public schools, and from our employees.

We’re proud to have been included on Business Insurance’s Best Places to Work list every year since 2018 and plan to continue operating as an organization that values its employees and members every day.

SET SEG: Not Your Typical Insurance Company

For most insurance companies, success is defined by profit and financial benchmarks. But for SET SEG, that’s not the case — we’re not an insurance company. Our members join a pool and fund as opposed to going with a traditional insurance carrier, meaning member districts are our shareholders and have a voice in our strategic direction. The success of the Pool and Fund allows members to receive net asset returns and premium reductions.

Insuring public schools is a risky endeavor, and in Michigan, where the summers are short and the winters are freezing, providing affordable and quality coverage on everything from property/casualty and workers’ compensation to employee benefits, can be a challenge.

As our schools face these challenges, we like to remind them one thing: they’re not alone.

From our corporate programs and workplace culture to our philanthropic efforts through the SET SEG Foundation, giving back to our schools and communities has become a part of the SET SEG approach, always connecting back to our core value to put schools first.

12 Ways SET SEG Gives Back

12. Property/Casualty Return Checks

Every year, districts that are members of the MASB/SEG Property/Casualty Pool receive a net asset return check for funds not utilized in covering claims the previous year. As members of the Pool, school districts share the risk but benefit when claims are reduced and prevented.

11. Workers’ Compensation: Funding Safety Initiatives

Every spring, the SEG Self-Insurer Workers’ Compensation Fund sends a check to each member of the Fund so those districts can purchase products that will help decrease common injuries that occur inside the classroom, with the ultimate goal of reducing injuries and claims across the state.

10. Free Subscription to MyCyber

It’s not enough to provide funds for the property and buildings our students and educators populate, protecting districts from cyber threats is also a top priority. Through a partnership with Tetra Defense, a leading cybersecurity firm, SET SEG provides a valuable tool for members to scan their systems allowing schools to shore up their cyber defenses, keeping their school community safe from damaging cyber incidents.

SET SEG is providing all members with a free subscription to MyCyber, a platform used to conduct cyber hygiene projects ensuring schools are following cyber security best practices and have all the tools they need to remain secure. Click to learn more.

9. Adopt a Family

As an organization, participating in Adopt-a-Family prior to the holidays is a great way to engage our employees and give back to the community at the same time. Each year, SET SEG pledges to assist one or two families who may be struggling to provide gifts for their children.

This season, our staff is purchasing and donating enough gifts to cover a family of five.

8. Employee Food Drive

For two weeks this November, our staff brought in food donations to the office for a food drive benefitting the SIREN/Eaton Shelter in Charlotte, Michigan, a community resource dedicated to providing advocacy and support services to the homeless population and domestic violence survivors.

7. Paid Volunteer Time

While giving back is top of mind during the holiday season, SET SEG has put in place policies that encourage philanthropy all year round, specifically through paid volunteer time and donating to our Foundation with payroll contributions. Employees are given eight hours of paid time off from work to volunteer for a cause, event, organization, etc. of their choice.

In addition to giving their time, many SET SEG employees take advantage of our payroll contribution option to donate an amount per day period to the SET SEG Foundation, directly donating to grant and scholarship programs benefiting our public schools.

6. Send a Candy Cane

In December, as a fundraiser for the SET SEG Foundation, the philanthropic arm of our organization, staff can pay $1 to send a coworker a festive treat with a message to share their appreciation during the holiday season.

5. Award 10 Schools $2,500

The SET SEG Foundation is once again partnering with the Michigan Association of School Boards to honor Michigan public school programs with Education Excellence Awards. Ten educational programs within Michigan public schools and/or ISDs will be awarded the grant to continue their positive influence on their students and community.

Winners receive $2,500, a commemorative trophy, and a street sign announcing the districts as an Education Excellence winner. Apply here: setseg.org/edex

4. Send 65 Students to Summer Leadership Camp

The Michigan Association of Student Councils and Honor Societies (MASC/MAHS) Summer Leadership Camp provides an opportunity for students to experience lessons in leadership, communications, group activities, and goal setting. Through this competitive process, students in grades nine through 12 receive scholarships to attend camp.

Every year, SET SEG receives hundreds of applications from all throughout Michigan and awards $26,000 in full scholarships. Click to learn more.

3. Provide 20 Students Scholarships for the Skilled Trades

The SET SEG Foundation believes in supporting Michigan public school students in the pursuit of enrichment opportunities that advance learning and create opportunities. With the shortage of skilled trade workers in Michigan, we want to help revitalize these career paths and support students in their professional pursuits by giving 20 scholarships each in the amount of $500. Click to learn more.

2. Award 3 School Districts in the Student Showcase

Each year MASC/MAHS invite students across the state to develop a student showcase presentation that shares the very best in programming currently being executed at their school. Presentations are held at regional events throughout the state and can be selected to present at the state conference in February. The top presentations are voted on by attending schools for a chance to present to more than 2,000 student leaders from across the State of Michigan. Students attending the state conference will vote for the top three winners.

The SET SEG Foundation awards the top three winning school districts $1,000.

#GivingTuesday: SET SEG Foundation

Throughout our #12WaysOfGiving series we’ve covered all the ways SET SEG gives back to Michigan’s schools and communities, even highlighting our generous staff for all they give throughout the year in addition to their hard work serving our members every day.

Now it’s your turn.

If you would like to contribute to any of the SET SEG Foundation’s programs benefitting Michigan public school educators and students, please donate today: setseg.org/donate.

2022 MASC/MAHS Summer Leadership Camp

In July, young leaders flocked to Albion, Michigan to attend the Michigan Associations of Student Councils and Honors Societies (MASC/MAHS) Summer Leadership Camp. Packed with excitement, anticipation, and the hunger to learn, students ranging from grades 9–12 began their week-long journey to becoming impactful leaders at their schools and communities.

The Camp Experience

Students enter camp at one of four levels based on prior Camp attendance. They are then grouped into Leadership Councils, assigned a color, and begin building relationships with their team members from the ground up – completing all activities together under guidance from two staff members per council.

With chants, songs, and cheers echoing throughout Albion College’s campus, the camp atmosphere is electric. All students participate in introspective activities that foster collaboration, education, and development of core skills to enhance their leadership abilities.

Students enter Camp as strangers but leave with lifelong friends and the skills to enrich and serve their communities.

Leaving a Lasting Impact

At week’s end, campers hate to leave this life-changing experience, but their passion and dedication continues on as they take these lessons back to their schools. In fact, students often find themselves at camp because a friend, young leader, or sibling has attended before them, and with rave reviews, new students are drawn in.

Level One attendee Manmeet Vij recalls how she found herself interested in camp from a fellow student leader, “My student council president was so enthusiastic about camp and how life-changing it is, how fun activities are, and how you meet so many amazing people throughout the week.”

This new set of campers share the same sentiments of those who have gone before them and can’t wait to go home and share their experiences. Some campers are even plotting their return before camp ends, as is the case with Level One camper Olivia Seeburger. “I’m definitely coming back because I love it here. The activities are fun, the people make a huge impact, and the whole experience is amazing.”

The SET SEG Foundation recognizes the impact and value that this leadership camp has on students and their communities. For more than 15 years, the Foundation has invested in that success by providing more than $26,000 annually in scholarship dollars. Many of the applicants do not have the financial support necessary to attend this exceptional opportunity.

Click here to view the winners!

This year, the SET SEG Foundation awarded over 50 scholarships to students, reaching 34 school districts in 18 counties throughout Michigan: https://setseg.org/camp

To contribute to events like the MASC/MAHS Summer Leadership Camp, consider donating to the SET SEG Foundation. Click here for more information.

2021 MASC/MAHS Summer Leadership Camp: Slideshow

The SET SEG Foundation annually provides over $26,000 in full scholarships to the MASC/MAHS Summer Leadership Camp, offering impassioned students the chance to grow and learn about themselves as they develop into young leaders.

We wanted to thank those of you who have contributed to the SET SEG Foundation. Your generous donations have supported Michigan students who might not have otherwise had the financial opportunity to attend this highly influential leadership camp.

Please enjoy some highlights of the many experiences and memories the camp attendees shared over the course of this year’s event!

2021 MASC/MAHS Summer Leadership Camp

Arriving at the Michigan Associations of Student Councils and Honor Societies (MASC/MAHS) Summer Leadership Camp for the first time can be a bit jarring: scores of loud, enthusiastic, high school-aged students dancing, singing, and ultimately developing their leadership skills is certainly an uncommon experience. Give it a little time, however, and you’ll see just how beneficial the event is for the students and the Michigan communities they hail from.

The MASC/MAHS Leadership Camp focuses on developing core skills for the future leaders of Michigan communities. The program caters to all students ranging from grades 9–12 and features high-energy, introspective collaboration with their peers.

While the camp seeks to grow leaders, its effects are wide-reaching; as camp attendees head back to their schools, and ultimately their communities, they pass on the skills they’ve learned, enriching their environment, and Michigan as a whole. Recognizing the unique value of the camp, the SET SEG Foundation has been a long-time supporter of the program.

“Partnering with the MASC/MAHS Leadership Camp makes complete sense for the SET SEG Foundation,” explains Molly Mellema, the Executive Director for the Foundation and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at SET SEG. “Our mission is focused on providing students with the tools they need to enrich themselves and their communities. The camp is a very effective example of one of those tools.”

The Foundation awards over $26,000 in full scholarships every year to students across Michigan. The SET SEG team handpicks applicants, often selecting individuals who may not have the financial means to pursue a spot at the leadership camp.

To students like Sarayu Bethamchurla, the worth of the leadership camp is obvious: “If you want to change, if you want to work on yourself, then come to camp. If you want to meet incredible human beings that are capable of changing the world, come to camp.” And she should know; this is Sarayu’s second year at camp, thanks to scholarships from the SET SEG Foundation.

For over 15 years, the SET SEG Foundation has been passionately focused on student empowerment and providing financial support to things like the MASC/MAHS Summer Leadership Camp, helping to establish a bedrock of growth for Michigan students.

To contribute to events like the MASC/MAHS Summer Leadership Camp, consider donating to the SET SEG Foundation. Click here for more information.