One of the best parts of my job is getting to work with a variety of youth groups and schools. Kids are pretty real. If they don’t like something, they tell it like it is. If they really like something, they love it.
I think sometimes, as we age, we kind of forget what real human emotions and feelings are all about. We also get so hung up in political correctness that we forget how to genuinely care about something. Working with environmental issues, I run into many people who are passionate about what matters to them. Unfortunately, I also run into people who believe that they should care about the environment because it is politically correct to do so — even though they often do not have a clue why.
Children are refreshing. It is simple for them. They care about the world because this is where they live. They want animals, flowers and trees to be healthy, and they want to be healthy, too. They want their neighborhoods to be pretty, safe and clean. They want neighbors who they can care about and who care about them. They don’t need a lot of mumbo jumbo to understand that littering is wrong, recycling is good and planting things makes the world a wonderful place.
Here are highlights from some delightful youth projects that I have had the pleasure of working on:
• Fort Stewart 4-Hers recently created some owlishly delightful recycled art out of toilet-paper rolls. At first, it is hard to imagine that those little rolls of drab, brown cardboard could have any artistic leanings, but you should see these owls. They all have delightful personalities of their own. Kasey Bozeman, our local 4-H extension agent, in conjunction with the Hinesville Area Arts Council, led this wonderful project to teach kids about reusing objects and finding art in the simplest of objects.
• The older 4-Hers and the American Red Cross’ Club Red recently received $50 each for their group’s photos as they participated in this year’s Rivers Alive Cleanups.
• We recently held a poster contest in local elementary schools about being a good neighbor. Jaime Rearley, media specialist coordinator with the school system and a KLB board member, directed this effort that resulted in a whopping 580 poster entries. Now, if you have ever judged children’s art, you know it is hard enough anyway. It took us days to judge them because we wanted to give out 580 prizes. Children really do get what it means to be a good neighbor, and they translated it on paper in totally delightful ways! Our winners were:
First place: Ryan Delosreyes from Mrs. Ellis’ class at Button Gwinnett Elementary
Second place: Layla Martin from Mrs. Nearhoof’s class at Lyman Hall Elementary
Third place: Tony Lee from Mrs. Lawson’s class at Frank Long Elementary
First place: Elisse Albury from Mrs. Nearhoof’s class at Lyman Hall Elementary
Second place: Venus Johnson from Mrs. Nearhoof’s class at Lyman Hall Elementary
Third place: Violet Lustiano from Mrs. Wright’s class at Button Gwinnett Elementary
These kids were so happy that you would have thought they had won that Powerball lottery!
• Jaime Rearley also coordinated an America Recycles Day story time in a number of schools. We discussed the three Rs in video, story time and games. Jaime looked great dressed as a talking blue recycling bin.
• And those Midway Middle School kids just keep bringing it with their recycling efforts. In a recent Recycle Bowl competition, they collected more than 37,000 pounds of recycling in less than four weeks. They are ranked sixth nationally in the Pepsi Dream Machine Recycle Rally Competition!
• Green Clubs, Recycling Clubs, BI Beta Club and MMS Builders Club held recycling-pledge days in their schools.
Great youth — and we do have them—can inspire a great community! We are lucky to have as many passionate, talented young leaders as we have! They inspire me and remind me that how we treat our world and each other does matter immensely! I hope their efforts remind you that we all can get fired up about making our community a really fantastic place to live!
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