“We’re called the Youth Action Team because [members] are action oriented, they’re always doing stuff, so with the end of the school year, that doesn’t mean we are done,” Advisor Christa Gilmore said. “April is Alcohol Awareness Month, May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month as well as Mental Health Awareness Month, so we’ll be doing a lot about alcohol prevention with the proms coming up. We always partner with each school with their prom assemblies and we also help out with the new prom videos.”
She said the Teen Center has existed off and on for several years depending on funding, but has made headway since 2011 under the guidance of Gilmore and fellow advisor Scott Sherwin.
“It was at that time that we actually had a youth camp that summer that said a lot of teens age out of after school programs, that there’s not really a lot for their demographic to do and that they wanted to give back more to their community and that they wanted to really look at the issues that teens face and try to help reduce those [things] as being such of an issue as well as raising awareness around those topics,” Gilmore said. “We started our first Youth Action Team in August of 2011 and it was mostly kids from Cartersville High School because they could walk over to the Teen Center, it was convenient, and that year it started gaining momentum.
“We reached out to the counselors at all the high schools and asked for 10th through 12th graders that would be interested in meeting and then really figuring out what they wanted to do in the community. Ever since then, we’ve had every school represented at every meeting and now we actually have the kids recruiting.”
She said through partnerships, the Youth Action Team is able to help provide greater opportunities for students to grow as leaders.
“Another reason we’re trying to recruit right now is we’re a scholarship team for Georgia Teen Institute, which is a leadership camp and because of that we’re able to go to their camp for free, which otherwise would be very, very costly,” Gilmore said. “It’s held at Emory’s campus in Oxford, Ga., in June, and we stay in the dorms. We can only take a small number, we can’t take the whole Youth Action Team, so it’s usually first come, first serve.
“We go and they get to choose their workshops, they get to create an action plan from looking at what is the issue, why is that an issue, what are their resources, what do they want to do, what is their timeline, who is going to be in charge of what — they devise an entire action plan and then we try to implement that plan in the next school year. It’s a really exciting camp. It is probably the most positive and energetic environment I’ve been in for youth.
“Bartow Youth Action Team actually was team of the year out of the state [in 2013] ... for all of our underage alcohol prevention programs we have done in the community.”
She said the Youth Action Team provides a place for all students looking for a way to help others.
“With the Youth Action Team, we’re not necessarily asking for the top of the class, we’re not asking for the most outgoing kids, the ones that are involved in everything. Sure, we love those kids, but we want kids who have leadership potential in them, but maybe they haven’t really had the opportunity to show it or develop it and we want to be able to provide them that opportunity and I think Georgia Teen Institute really aids us in that because I have seen so many of our youth who are very quiet, very reserved, who disappear into the crowd and [then] they go to Teen Institute ... [and grow],” Gilmore said.
Victoria Grubbs, a senior at Adairsville High School, has been involved in the Youth Action Team for the last three years and has enjoyed the experience.
“[The Bartow Youth Action Team] is anti drug and anti alcohol, which is a big thing for me because I’m a teenager who doesn’t ever want to get into that sort of stuff,” Grubbs said. “Last year we did the countywide prom promise and we got involved [at] the individual schools handing out packets of information with knickknacks, goodies, things like that, and then we had people who were going to prom sign a banner saying they would remain alcohol and drug-free for the night.
“We handed out numerous amounts of materials around the schools and to the parents both in prom season and out of prom season just to discourage parents from giving kids alcohol and kids drinking and just how alcohol is a drug just as much as any other drug is.”
She continued, “... I think the biggest thing for me is probably that now I’m surrounded by people who choose to make the same decisions that I do and encourage me to continue to be alcohol and drug-free, especially ... [after] going through high school and having opportunities to have access to that stuff. Christa and [Advisor] Scott [Sherwin] are amazing mentors and both great to talk to whenever things come up and you get stressed or you have problems with that sort of stuff. It’s just been an amazing environment, we get to do a lot in the community and you see a lot of positive change.”