TRIMEASE K. CARTER, MSW
Over the past three years, community leaders in the small town of Clover, located in York County, have been motivated to make their community healthier. They’ve been taking steps to increase access to healthy foods and physical activity in various settings. Even a group of teens at Blue Eagle Academy joined the movement to impact their school community and surrounding neighborhoods positively.
The York County Healthy Young People Empowerment (HYPE) team, made of up of students at Blue Eagle Academy who are also members of the Boys and Girls Club of York County, are focusing on increasing access to physical activity at their school and Junior Eagle Academy. They formed in 2015 as a result of the Let’s Go! South Carolina Initiative.
During the first phase of their HYPE project, they completed a beautification project in the courtyard of their school to create a more pleasant and safer environment. Through this project, which was a continuation of an initiative initially started with Lowe’s Home Improvement, youth refurbished flowerbeds, donated outdoor vases and plants and cleaned overgrown areas. Students can now enjoy outdoor activities in the courtyard.
In addition to the beautification project, the Youth Team donated portable play equipment to the Junior Blue Eagle Academy, which serves grades 3-5. During a planning session, the HYPE Team learned there wasn’t enough play equipment available for all of the students, so they wanted to do something to help. The team used some of their available funds to donate soccer balls, playballs, basketballs, hula-hoops, a flag football set, and storage equipment to the Junior Academy.
According to their lead adult advisor Rasheeda White, “When we presented the equipment to the school principal and lead teacher, they were surprised and happy to receive it. The students were happy too!”
Due to the successes of their first project, the HYPE Team received additional support for a continuation project to focus on a track and field located between the two schools. The school district has an open community use policy, which allows community members to outdoor recreational areas outside of school hours. Because the community uses the track and field for physical activity, and students use it during and after school, the HYPE Team knew they wanted to make improvements.
The HYPE Team recognized that keeping the dog-friendly area clean helps attract more walkers and runners, so they made cleanliness a high priority. In addition to the team keeping the area clean with litter pick-up on Thursdays, they will soon be adding doggie waste stations equipped with bags for dog walkers to use. The team will also be making basketball court improvements, such as purchasing and installing new nets and goals.
The York County HYPE Team is a true testament to the effectiveness of youth engagement. Not only did youth take the appropriate to steps to successfully advocate for outdoor improvements, but they also learned the importance of social responsibility and helping others.