Mercantile Bank programs provide GVSU students with assistance for education expenses, experience in banking fields

Three students standing in office setting, from left, Kamarion Craig, Nadia Miller and Darian Quinn
Three first-year students, from left, Kamarion Craig, Nadia Miller and Darian Quinn are participating in a pilot program at Mercantile Bank. They each received a scholarship and have an internship at the bank to experience careers in that field.
Image credit - courtesy photo

Mercantile Bank has launched the Mentoring, Aspiring, Preparing (MAP) program and, in partnership with Grand Valley, a scholarship, providing students with assistance for their education 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 concert 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 offers selected first-year GVSU students a $15,000 annual award, providing them with up to $60,000 over the course of their college career. 

Current first-year students Kamarion Craig, Nadia Miller and Darian Quinn were selected for the pilot year of the program. Each student received a $15,000 scholarship plus a paid internship at Mercantile's headquarters on Leonard Street in Grand Rapids. 

Robert Kaminski, chief executive officer of Mercantile, said the bank has robust high school co-op and college internship programs, but leaders were looking for ways to enhance leadership development components and continue to promote diversity, equity and inclusion within the industry. 

“At Mercantile, we are dedicated to empowering people to take charge of their financial future,” Kaminski said. “Both the MAP program and the Mercantile Bank Business Scholarship are designed to help students gain the equitable access required for success. We are pleased that GVSU is just as passionate as we are in providing students with leadership skills, both inside and outside the classroom.” 

For Craig, Miller and Quinn, the scholarship certainly eased any financial burdens they and their families felt as initial tuition bills for the Fall 2021 semester began arriving. 

"Before I was selected for this program, I had planned on living at home," said Quinn, a business major who graduated from East Kentwood High School. "With this scholarship, I'm able to live on Grand Valley's campus."

As part of her internship, Miller helped read essays sent by area sixth-12th grade students who participated in the City of Grand Rapids Rosa Parks Scholarship contest. "It was a great experience to see what the students are thinking and to know they will receive this scholarship money," said Miller, who is a business and entrepreneurship major and an East Kentwood High School graduate. 

Soon, the students will be paired with mentors. Misti Stanton, vice president, diversity, equity and inclusion officer, said there was no shortage of Mercantile volunteers. 

"Mentors will work with students to answer questions and provide meaningful experiences in a variety of bank departments," Stanton said. “Not only will they work with their mentors to gain valuable knowledge, but they 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 the students and will connect them to academic resources and co-curricular initiatives at the Seidman College of Business.  

"As these students explore careers in business and economics, they will learn about the wide variety of academic, social, and professional opportunities available, and have the opportunity to engage with our corporate partners at career events," Lowen said. 

Like his peers, Craig has enjoyed working with Stanton and others at Mercantile and learning more about the banking industry. He said the scholarship opportunity was presented to him as 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 were lots of things going on at that time," he said. "Now, here I am on campus and my mom is so proud of me. I'm the second person in our family to go to college, and I'm setting an example for my brother."

Stanton said that is the exact reason Mercantile started this program. 

"When you talk about equity and setting up people for success, graduating with less debt and measurable work experience is an important part of helping students to launch successful careers and give back to their communities," she said.