SACaims to make a difference

Published on Thu, May 13, 2004 by ack Kintner

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SAC aims to make a difference

By Jack Kintner

“I want to make a difference,” said Josh White, a 14-year-old freshman at Blaine high school who lives next to the Birch Bay Water Slides. To learn how to work effectively with people he’s signed on with a new community action group endorsed by Blaine school distract called the Student Ambassador Committee (SAC) led by the engaging and energetic Mike Harward.

Bellingham native Harward, 40, now an Acme resident who works in Blaine, credits the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce and its president Nick Jerns for helping him develop the program, but says it’s based on ideas he first had during his 10 years managing professional basketball player Magic Johnson’s basketball camps. “It’s about challenging kids to do something and then helping them find ways to accomplish their goals, something that involves raising money, creating networks and serving the community,” Harward said. Harward is the vice-president of Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce.

The opportunity arose locally when “people (in Birch Bay) began complaining about kids hanging out on the beach, getting into trouble. They know there’s not many cops down there, but we are. So our idea is to pull them off the street and into a program,” Harward said, “with questions like ‘What do you want to do?’ and ‘If I gave you a budget, what would you do with it?’”

“Some of these kids are at risk,” he said, “but others have high grades. Some of them need to work off community service, others want a chance to meet someone and learn what a business or even a life is like.”

SAC’s first president is Blaine junior Matt Anderson, who said that this plan dovetails well with his goal of becoming a professional pilot. “One of the big expenses in pilot training is getting flight time. This is one way to deal with that.”

The group hopes to make money with projects carried on in partnership with local businesses. Since getting under way last winter, they have found some businesses to be quite receptive. The Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce will enlist the students to help create new entrance signs to Birch Bay. Whatcom County berry grower Marty McPhail will supply wholesale strawberries and raspberries for re-sale on the beach this summer, and on May 12 Harward announced an agreement he’s made with the Seattle Supersonics. SAC members will sell tickets to selected games billed as “Whatcom County Days” at the Key Arena and will get to keep a portion of the proceeds.

Both Blaine high school principal Dan Newell and district superintendent Mary Lynne Derrington have gone on record as supporting Harward’s efforts. The group meets twice a month, on the second and fourth Wednesdays in the owner’s lounge in the Trend West facility in Birch Bay.

Harward emphasizes that SAC is not affiliated with any religious group or point of view. “I have my own motivations,” he said, “but this is a group for everyone.” He suggested watching the movie Pay it Forward for a look at the group’s guiding philosophy.

For more information, contact Harward at 595-9643.