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Incoming freshman raises $200,000 to build amphitheater in Mount Pleasant

Taylor Idema spent four years working on the amphitheater for her Girl Scout Gold Award project


Mount Pleasant freshman Taylor Idema thanks community leaders, friends and family during the grand opening of the Island Park Arts Pavilion Aug. 5 at Island Park. 

Incoming freshman Taylor Idema, who grew up in Mount Pleasant, wanted to give the community the opportunity to enjoy music and the arts, just like she does. That's why she raised $200,000 to build an outdoor amphitheater for that very purpose.

For the past four years, Idema has been working on a project for everyone in Mount Pleasant to enjoy: the Island Park Arts Pavilion. The pavilion opened Monday, Aug. 5 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and performances from local musicians.

Idema came up with the idea to build an outdoor amphitheater four years ago, while discussing her Girl Scout Gold Award project with her family. The Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive. It is given to girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership on projects that have a sustainable impact on their community.

"I'm a pretty musical person, so I knew I wanted to do something around music and the arts," she said. "I was actually sitting around the dinner table with my family and we were just kind of bouncing ideas off each other and I came to the idea for an amphitheater."

Idema was involved in orchestra and band at Mount Pleasant High School. She also sings at her church. Her musical background inspired her to create a space in town that was available for performers to use year-round, for free. 

Community members gather in Island Park for the grand opening of the Island Park Arts Pavilion Aug. 5 in Island Park. 

Once she developed her idea, she spoke to Chris Bundy, the director of parks and public spaces in Mount Pleasant to make sure building an amphitheater was feasible.

"We did have an amphitheater in (the city's) master plan," Bundy said. "We had some folks mention that that would be nice in the park in the downtown area, so I put it in our 5-year master plan as a goal."

Once she had a clear vision for the project, she pitched the idea at the first-ever Pitch-Er This! competition in 2016. Hosted by the United Way of Gratiot and Isabella County, the event is a youth development competition that gives students the opportunity to implement their ideas in the community.

"We had to do table-top displays and a formal presentation in front of a panel of judges that were community members," Idema said. "I ended up winning that day."

As the winner of the competition, Idema received $5,000 to start her project. She began working closely with Bundy and staff in the parks and recreation department to bring her vision to life. She also connected with Amanda Schafer, executive director of the Mount Pleasant Area Community Foundation, who taught her how to raise funds for the project.

"I was not able to do any of this alone," Idema said. "It was my job to pitch my idea to the Mt. Pleasant Community and to assemble a team. This project would never have become a reality without the help of so many individuals and organizations."

Idema raised more than $200,000 in donations and grants to complete the project. She talked to bank presidents and foundations in the Mount Pleasant area to ask for donations. She also worked with city employees to apply for two grants, resulting in a $75,000 matching grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and $45,000 from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe's 2% distribution. 

The project was also funded by The Morey Foundation, the W.E. Martin Fund of the Mount Pleasant Area Community Foundation, Isabella Bank, the Rotary Club of Mount Pleasant, Isabella Community Credit Union, Doug and Melissa LaBelle Family Foundation, Mercantile Bank of Michigan, City of Mount Pleasant Parks Partnership Fund, United Way of Gratiot and Isabella Counties, the Mount Pleasant Jaycees and Mount Pleasant Agency, Inc. – Central Insurance.

Idema is excited to come to CMU in the fall. She grew up just a few minutes away from campus, and both of her parents work at the university. Her mother, Judy, is the associate director of the Honors Program, and her father, Tom, is the director of the Office of Student Conduct.

"Judy and I are very proud of Taylor and all the hard work she has put into making the amphitheater a reality," Tom said. "She has been blessed with a great mentor in Chris Bundy, who has been her guide from the beginning of this project, and an amazing Mount Pleasant Community who supported her every step of the way."

Idema plans to study public relations, history and political science at CMU. She's hoping to use the skills she learned from her Gold Award project during her college career and after.

"I definitely did enjoy this (project)," she said, "so it could definitely be something I do in the future."