They went outdoors or stayed indoors. They worked with people and animals. They used their brains and did some manual labor, too.
Saturday was a morning filled with diverse, hands-on projects for high school-age youth in Medina County.
About 200 participants volunteered for United Way’s Youth Day of Action. The service work was an outgrowth of a recently held program called the E4 Youth Summit that set up opportunities for community work.
“It’s all about giving them a unique experience where they can interact and make new connections in the county and actually have the experience of accomplishing something meaningful for their neighbors and friends,” United Way of Medina County CEO Cheryl Parzych said.
Countywide projects included:
- activities to engage youth mentors with younger students in matches through Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Summit, Medina and Stark counties
- marketing campaign for the Brunswick Optimist Club
- food drive for Feeding Medina County
- creating “goodie bags” for First Impression Inc.
- Sole Hope “shoe-cutting” project for the Kiwanis Club of Medina
- creating a video for Lamplight Counseling Service
- creating a time capsule of Medina County, sponsored by county commissioners
- reading and crafts with Medina County District Library
- activities with Medina County Home
- outdoor scavenger hunt for Wolf Creek Environmental Center
- elementary school programs for Medina County Police Activities League
- interacting with veterans at Medina County Veterans Services Center
- creating a window display for Project: LEARN of Medina County
- activities for the Society for Handicapped Citizens/The Arc of Medina County
- service work at the Medina County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- creating a video for the Medina Diversity Project
- interacting with residents and leading programs at Western Reserve Masonic Community.
Gregory Steinberger, 16, of Buckeye High School, was among a group collecting news articles, letters, pictures and other memorabilia for the time capsule.
“I thought this was a cool idea,” Steinberger said. “I want to have an impact (on the community) and be able to look back at the time capsule and have something to reflect on.”
Nina Buchan, 16, of Cloverleaf High, cut milk cartons and denim material for a nationwide project called Sole Hope. The materials eventually are made into shoes and sent to Uganda.
“You get a feel for what you’re doing and what matters by creating something to help in the community and know you’re doing something good for others,” Buchan said. “I think it’s good to come together to do something and make a difference.”
Another group of students played games and made crafts with elementary school-age students enrolled in the Medina County Police Activities League.
“I like to work with kids,” said Nicole Babic, 15, of Highland High. “I feel that is what I’m best at and it’s important to the kids.”
“The main goal (of the league) is to bring police and youth together,” activities league program director Rebecca Byrne said. “(But) also introduce them to good mentors, which these students are. Elementary students look up to high school students.”
On Oct. 28, the same 200 participants gathered at the Blair Center in Westfield Center to identify their strengths using an assessment tool called “StrengthQuest.” They took what they learned about their talents and signed up for a Saturday project that interested them.
“This experience was built on a positive approach to use strengths to help shape interests and use those interests in the community,” Parzych said.
Participants also listened to a panel of community speakers who presented information about their organization and how to get involved.
Of the 200 participants, 160 were Medina County students from all seven school districts while others were facilitators from Leadership Medina County and the Junior Leadership.
The first E4 Youth Summit program was held in the spring of 2014. Parzych said the idea was created to engage youth in the community after surveys from a 2012 countywide assessment showed high numbers of youths ages 12 to 17 saying they felt disengaged.
“People all over the county were focused on what we could do,” she said. “One thing is demonstrate to youth that they are a large part of the community and make them feel how important they are.”
The four E’s in E4 stand for engage, educate, equip and empower.
“This important experience helps youth to improve the quality of life for others. …” United Way said in a statement.
Halee Heironimus | The Gazette
Published on Nov. 13, 2016