Focused on service
Matthew McKenzie ’16 was one of 30 U.S. Ford employees selected for the company’s Thirty Under 30 program last year.
By Madison MacKenzie ’18
Like many of his classmates, Matthew McKenzie ’16 did volunteer work during his time at Elon. In fact, by the time he graduated, 89 percent of the Class of 2016 had participated in a service opportunity. But for McKenzie, his commitment to helping those in need did not end at graduation.
McKenzie attended Elon as part of the engineering program, spending three years on campus studying computing sciences and two at the University of Notre Dame. The computer engineer began an internship in the summer of 2015 with Ford Motor Company, which resulted in a full-time job offer with the company’s IT department the following fall. Starting with his internship, he took advantage of Ford’s commitment to giving back and got involved in volunteering through the company. “Ford has a great opportunity for employees where they allocate 16 hours of volunteering per year, even as an intern,” says McKenzie, adding he decided to volunteer with Gleaners Community Food Bank.
The nonprofit organization collects and distributes roughly 39 million pounds of food per year throughout five counties in Southeastern Michigan. This impressive reach kept bringing McKenzie back to the food bank. His dedication earned him a spot in Ford’s Thirty Under 30 program, whose fellows are made up of Matthew McKenzie ’16 was one of 30 U.S. Ford employees selected for the company’s Thirty Under 30 program last year. who are under the age of 30 and who are selected from more than 300 competitive applications across the country.
“The program is run by Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic portion of Ford Motor Co., and it is an innovative corporate leadership course to engage younger employees through working and learning about philanthropic organizations,” he says. “The community theme for 2017 was food insecurity, so all the nonprofits participating in the program had a focus on food.”
This aligned perfectly with his past volunteering efforts at Elon. As a first year, McKenzie began taking cooking shifts with Campus Kitchen and by the time he was a junior he was the director of the organization. “I am sure that the Campus Kitchen experience was a factor in being selected for the Thirty Under 30 program and it gave me insights that I’ve used in our project at Gleaners.”
As a fellow in the program, McKenzie learned civic engagement and leadership skills with a focus on philanthropy and volunteerism. He not only developed a sense of what it takes to run a charity, but also how to cultivate strategies to help nonprofits connect with younger generations who represent a future donor and volunteer base.
On a more personal level, the program allowed McKenzie to grow professionally. He collaborated with employees in other departments, including finance, product development and manufacturing, exposing him to a wider range of skills and making him a more versatile employee. More importantly, the program solidified his commitment to service. “I’ve started to notice and pay more attention to my community,” he says. “I’ve taken more time to reflect on what is important to me and what can be done to help those in need.”