Teens United: ‘An extremely inspiring group of young men and women’
When schools began implementing online learning earlier this year, many of the students’ extracurricular activities were affected.
One of these activities was the Red Cord Community Service Program geared towards students earning service hours by volunteering to help with community projects.
However, with the COVID-19 restrictions, opportunities for students to gain service hours were hindered.
Realizing this, teachers began allowing activities like walking the dog and taking out the trash as a means of gaining service hours that could go towards a student obtaining his or her service cords, Warren Central High School senior Jane Hopson said.
For Hopson, however, her mother, Ali, would not allow her to count these types of activities as service hours.
“So as soon as school started back up this year I was determined to have some sort of opportunities for teens to really get involved and give back,” Jane said, and with the support of the United Way of West Central Mississippi, Teens United was formed.
Teens United, Hopson said, is comprised of a group of youth from every school in Vicksburg who focus on creating monthly service projects in an effort to become involved with the community.
One way of doing this, she said, is to learn more about the local nonprofit groups supported by the United Way.
“Before we formed this committee, none of us knew what was going on around us in the community and we were all very interested in the idea of getting to really understand what the partner agencies of the United Way were actually about,” Hopson said.
Each month since Teens United was formed, United Way executive director Michele Connelly said, the young people select an agency and interview via Zoom the director of each agency to find out the needs and how they can make an impact on those who are served by that agency.
“Once determined, they inspire other teens to become involved in a meaningful project,” Connelly said.
“Our very first project was in October and we decided to focus on the Warren County Children’s Shelter,” Hopson said.
Knowing the children at the shelter had to be struggling with loneliness due to COVID-19 restrictions, Teens United implemented what they called “Pieces Of Positivity.”
“We wanted to give them (the children at the shelter) some positive words so we decided to have a drive collecting posters with uplifting sayings on them along with envelopes that had words of positivity on them,” Hopson said.
Nearly 500 posters that were to be hung on the walls at the shelter and hundreds of envelopes filled with positive sayings were collected for the Teens United project.
“Personally, this was my favorite project because it was so inspiring to see the youth around us get so involved and willing to spread positivity to other youth,” Hopson said.
In November, Teens United focused on the Good Shepherd Community Center.
“We collected socks, masks, and sanitizer for the baskets that Good Shepherd gives out to the elderly every year,” Hopson said, adding, “This project was also a huge success and the boxes left at each school for donations we’re almost all completely filled.
The Teens United December service project was focused on Excel by 5. Hopson said the committee (Teens United) wrapped books for all of the early education centers around town.
“I cannot wait to see this project finished because I know how inspiring it will be to us and the children receiving the books,” she said.
Hopson said as of now there are nine who serve on the Teens United committee with no set officers.
“We all have something unique and new to bring to the table and everyone’s ideas go so great together,” she said.
“This is an extremely inspiring group of young men and women,” Connelly said. “And in this day and age, we need this.”