Georgia County Government - January/February 2012 - (Page 28)

ExtensionNews Teens Solving Community Problems By Faith Peppers ids have crazy ideas. One University of Georgia (UGA) Cooperative Extension program is proving those crazy ideas often can solve community problems. Elbert County is getting a new park. Madison County residents can soon visit the revitalized gravesite of one of their founding fathers. Both projects were designed by high school students in a UGA Extension pilot program — TAP, Teens as Planners. “We strongly encourage community leaders to let the students investigate the community, identify local needs, develop a plan that addresses the issues and then implement the plan,” said UGA Family and Consumer Sciences Extension specialist Sharon Gibson. “When UGA Extension agents working with these youths provide support, encouragement and the right kind of environment for creative problem solving, these kids come up with very creative ideas and solutions,” Gibson said. And, they learn to serve their community at the same time. Eleventh-grader Shaquille Sanders has a cure for boredom: Go play bingo at Heardmont Nursing Home. “We go to the nursing home every other month and play bingo,” said Christa Campbell, UGA Extension agent in Elbert County. “The students are starting to establish bonds with the seniors, which the seniors especially enjoy because some don’t have family and visitors.” Sanders says he and his classmates have grown to love the nursing home residents. It is all because of the TAP program, which started in 2009. Shaquille and 19 other students in Elbert County — as well as 16 students in Madison County — are part of TAP. The program’s primary goals are to develop engaged citizens and improve the K TAP students worked together on a beautification project at General Daniel’s Cemetery in Madison County. Photo courtesy UGA Cooperative Extension. 28 GEORGIA COUNTY GOVERNMENT likelihood these teens will graduate from high school and become the kind of employees any business would want to hire. Through TAP, the students develop strong workplace skills and improve personal skills such as budgeting money, cooking at home and caring for themselves. They learn how to participate in government and work to improve academically through tutoring in math and language arts. “It doesn’t matter what their school issues are,” Campbell said. “These are youth with the potential to graduate who just need something or someone to keep them on track.” Leigh Anne Aaron, UGA Extension agent in Madison County, has watched her students grow from being disconnected to participating in track, football, clubs and 4-H. “I think one of the biggest impacts has been their attitude towards school,” she said. “TAP really has given them more of a connection to the school and kept them connected so they don’t drop out early.” TAP is funded by a five-year grant from the USDA-NIFA Children, Youth and Families at Risk Sustainable Communities Program. “Every decision that is made for the TAP program is based on what the youth in the program identify as important,” Gibson said. TAP teens demonstrate newly mastered leadership skills through capstone projects in their communities — an added benefit to the two pilot counties. In Elbert County, students are cleaning and repairing Bowman Park. In Madison County, students have cleaned up along the Broad River and are painting a mural at the outdoor classroom at Ila Elementary School. TAP members also are working with the Madison County Heritage Foundation on a historical beautification project at General Daniel’s cemetery — the namesake of the county seat, Danielsville. “The TAP program has given the students in Madison County so many unique experiences,” Aaron said. “For many of them, this is the first time they have received recognition for their actions. Each time we have an event or community service workday, they ask me if it will be in the newspaper because they want others to see the positive difference they are making.” Stepping into a nursing home is a big move for high school students. A trip to Washington, D.C., last July, including a briefing at the White House, was a giant leap outside of northeast Georgia for them. At the briefing, the students talked to White House staff and discussed projects underway in their communities. Johntavis Williams, an Elbert County junior, says TAP is helping him carve his path. At the White House briefing, he told White House blogger Isaiah Nelson, “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.” “For them to be a part of something bigger than Madison or Elbert counties was pretty neat. In D.C., they learned about themselves, that they matter, and they are going to make a difference.”

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia County Government - January/February 2012

President’s Message
Director’s Desk
Guest Editorial: Together We Stand
Harris County: Smart Investments Paying Dividends for the Future
EMS Delivery Models in Georgia
How New EMS Technologies are Improving Patient Care
Regional EMS: Opportunities for Better Service and Lower Costs?
EMS Leadership Course Planned
Washington D.C. Update
Georgia Public Safety Radio Systems Must Transition to Narrowbanding
Fulton County Public Works Recognized with APWA Accreditation
Extension News: Teens Solving Community Problems
News & Notes
Index of Advertisers

Georgia County Government - January/February 2012