Ten Jackson-Madison County School students stood before community leaders Friday, May 12, and explained what changes they want to see happen in Jackson. Although that may seem like an intimidating task for a teenager, the students rose to the challenge with the help from TheCo and other community partners.
The ten students have spent the last year working with mentors to discover their passion, and what they would like to see in the community. Topics ranged from sexual harassment education, to the perception of city parks.
This was Jackson Central-Merry High School Senior Tim Branch’s second year in the program, one that he calls life-changing. He spoke about why school administrations should think outside the traditional activities for students. Branch has played several sports in the past, but found his home with the Hub City Mass Choir.
“This program has been a big deal for me because it has shaped me to be the man I have become,” Brand said, “I’m not gonna say it got me out of my comfort zone, because I always have been outspoken, but it it allowed me to just be free and speak from the heart.”
Branch asked leaders to consider activities that might not be school related to be promoted through the system. He also asked for community centers to be promoted for teenagers to use to find their passion.
“It’s not so much reinventing bridges, but promoting those that are out there. And providing a safe place. A safe place will allow teens to come out of their shells by doing activities they might not normally do,” Branch said.
Community leaders dug deeper into his proposal, and Branch gave specific examples of his experiences, and how other teenagers might feel.
“They pushed me to be the best I can be, like how to present myself. I’m never gonna forget it. I’m gonna take that and just run with it,” Branch said.
Jackson Grown was founded by Jon Mark Walls, who works overseas, and TheCo’s Courtney Searcy. It is led by dozens of community leaders who donate their time to teach the students critical thinking, research, and public speaking skills.
“They’re able to make arguments and, think on the fly, and stand in front of the mayor and the business people and speak on really divisive topics in front of the people who actually have control things or have the ear of those who do,” Co-founder Jon Mark Walls said about the students in the program.
TheCo plans to expand the program into its third year in the coming school year, and welcome more community members.
Julia Ewoldt, email@example.com