How Muskegon STAR! training builds community pride

During the Muskegon STAR! training, Linden Peterson, the director of events for the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, always shows a picture of the Wastewater Treatment Center and asks the class, “If you go home tonight and say to your significant other, ‘Hey, let’s go to the Wastewater Treatment Center this weekend,’ what do you think they’d say?”

He usually gets a few laughs before informing everyone that the wastewater plant property has a large telescope for stargazing, a rocket club, is great for bluebird and snowy owl watching, and more. 

“Many people are surprised and have no idea,” Peterson shares. “That’s the objective of the class. The training helps to educate participants of Muskegon County on how to answer when people ask questions about the community.”
In an activity designed to show participants just how diverse Muskegon County is, participants work together to find different locations within the county during Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce STAR! training.
Learning and activities

The Muskegon STAR! training is a four-hour class about Muskegon County and includes five sections:
  • Introduction to Muskegon STAR! — How and why the class was created.
  • Customer Service — How to deliver information about Muskegon in a customer-service-friendly way.
  • Discovering Muskegon’s Unique Places and How to Find Them — Includes all the great places Muskegon County offers (parks, lakes, venues, activities, festivals, etc.).
  • Getting to Know Muskegon County Better — The history, population, employment sectors, etc.
  • Activities — This section is used throughout the training and contains activities that participants do together.
“(This program) began in 2015 as part of the Watch Muskegon campaign,” explains Peterson. “The campaign was built on three tiers: Beautification, Marketing, and Education. Muskegon STAR! is part of the education tier along with the Muskegon In Focus course. It was designed not only to educate people about Muskegon but also build pride in the community and create ‘brand ambassadors’ for Muskegon.”

A class for all

Peterson, who has taught every class, has trained over 2,000 STARS! and continues to teach according to Muskegon’s history as well as updating information to be as current as possible. In previous years, Peterson has been joined by local retired teachers and hopes that will continue.

“I think it’s important that participants don’t hear the same voice for four hours, and it’s great to find others who have the background and personality to help make the class great,” Peterson quips.

This class is meant for any and all — from students to retirees.

“Even if you’ve lived here your whole life, you’ll learn something new,” Peterson says. “For businesses, learning about attractions, tourism, and the economics of Muskegon County can benefit them. The more you know about your community and what it’s made of, I believe that provides more opportunities for commerce. Many times, networking is an important aspect of the training. In one class, we had a Realtor, a mortgage lender, a title company, and a home buyer, and they all ended up working together.”
A new STAR! class graduates and becomes part of over 2000 Muskegon STARS! that have taken the class since 2015.
Focus on town pride

Peterson and his co-educators also focus on town pride.

“That’s what it’s really all about. Taking pride in your community; knowing and understanding why this area is so great,” he says. 

This pride is something Peterson feels personally, which is why he continues to lead the training. 

“The time I spend teaching this class is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my career. Getting to talk to people about the community you love doesn’t feel like work at all.”

Peterson teaches the Muskegon STAR! program to individuals as well as local businesses. If you or your company are interested in registering, the next class is on June 28, 2023. 
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Kelsey Sanders.