Last week, 25 rising 10th and 11th graders from Elbert and Madison Counties in Georgia were welcomed to the White House. These students are part of the University of Georgia Teens and Planners program, and they took the opportunity to share their stories and program with White House staff.
The Teens as Planners are a collaboration between the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and other county and community partners. In 2009, a select group of roughly 25 at risk students were recruited to participate in this program. Since then, they have been working with dedicated mentors to develop the skills needed to lead positive and productive lives, defined by service to their community and workforce development.
During the visit, the teens explained the many projects they are undertaking in their community. The Teens and Planners typically work before and after school, dedicating much of their time outside of the classroom to service. Their projects are centered on opportunities which allow them to leave behind lasting impacts in their community.
One student discussed the group’s work on the Bowman Park Beautification Project, where they are hoping to improve the park by renovating, repairing and restoring the park. They are repairing bathrooms, removing and replacing broken equipment and beatifying the landscape of the park. Once they have completed their work, they will have provided the community with a park that is once again able to serve the recreational needs of the people in Bowman.
Another teen described the work they are doing to provide fresh food to community members who do not regularity have access to locally grown produce. The students have been working with groups from across the community to weed and harvest a Victory Farm. Once the produce is ripe, they deliver the food to the local food bank. In 2012, they plan to continue their work and expand on the amount of produce harvested for the local community.
In addition to these students commitment to service through the Teens and Planners program, they are actively learning about government and community organizations. The students asked about government, politics and found out how they could get more involved.
At the end of their visit, one student summarized what they hope to accomplish through this program. “I want to look back and be able to say that I made a difference and I left my footprints on this earth in some way.”
Just like these students from Georgia, young people from all over the country are taking the lead and winning the future.