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Mission Clarksville partners with schools, business to launch youth initiative

 
the-food-initiative-5-girl-tending-crop

Harvesting the season's lettuce crop

“…to develop a thoughtful and productive community of young people who can change the world in a lasting and positive way…”

With a $5,000 matching gift from the Dandridge Trust, “Mission Clarksville”  made its formal debut Monday evening with a video presentation and a “meet and greet” with program administrators and more than two dozen  representatives of  Clarksville businesses, schools and media. The initial funding is directed to offset start-up costs for this ministry. The Dandridge Trust is a charitable organization closely related to the Episcopal Church.

Patrick Smith, Executive Director of Mission Clarksville,   urged listeners to “raise expectations,” noting that our children “will rise to the occasion.” His message is simple: create a healthy outlook on life, on relationships, on leadership, on responsibility by working hard, working as part of a team and a community, and giving back to that community.

Christ Presbyterian Church has offered the group free office and meeting space, including internet access.

“We are in this together. Our partners believe in us.  They see us drawing together teenagers from all kinds of diverse backgrounds. They see how we create a safe environment where young people learn to be producers and not just consumers, where they can discover the value of rigorous work and the emotional rewards of relevant community service,”  Smith said.

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A hard day's labor: harvesting food for the hungry

Mesina Bullock, Student Wellness Coordinator for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System,  said the program is “right in line with our state standards for health education…this will reinforce and apply over the summer what our students are learning during the academic year.”

Mission Clarksville is a “triple play,” a series of connected programs designed to impact the lives of teenagers ages 14-18 by providing a summer work program, a year-round internship program and a monthly wilderness program, with component designed to strengthen confidence, raise awareness of hunger and hunger relief programs, and build self-confidence, self-esteem and fitness.

In its mission statement, Mission Clarksville defines its purpose: “…to develop a thoughtful and productive community of young people who can change the world in a lasting and positive way. Our programs do this by connecting rigor (demanding physical labor) with relevance (meeting local community needs).”

the-food-initiative-1-carry-boxes

Three youth interns carry boxes of fresh organic produce

Dr. David Haase, whose businesses, MaxWell Clinic and Health Tools, are each supporting a youth intern in Summer, 2009. Haase addressed the gathering, praising the values espoused by Mission Clarksville in terms of  mind, body, spirit and community, needs that together create whole and healthy young people. “Wat we do can make a difference.” Haase, in emphasizing the need to create challenge and foster healthy activities for Clarksville youth, noted that Tennessee has now dropped from 47th to 49th place in ranking on health. In terms of industrialized nations, the United States is dead last. “That has to change,” he said, with the note that change can be here, one teenager at a time.

Though the program is only now being publicly launched, it already has a track record of success in its pilot phase, and that is attracting other sponsors.

The goal of creating productive and responsible citizens” is what drew Clarksville Attorney Peter Olson to the program and triggered his decision to sponsor a youth intern.

“I felt it was a way I could give back to my community. Young people need mentors, someone who can give them the tools for success.”

The program is designed to develop “sustainable community” and is rooted in four standards for success:

  • Rigor (hard work)
  • Relevance (meaningful service)
  • Relationship (caring community)
  • 100% Responsibility (shared and mature commitment)
the-food-initiative-2-in-greenhouse

Watering, weeding, thinning: steps to a bountiful harvest

The Food Initiative Program launched in Summer, 2008, brought together 12 teenagers from across the city for a four day Food Initiative/Into the Wild pilot program. Participants attended classes on environmental issues and then harvested, assembled and distributed shares of fresh organic vegetables to the Clarksville CSA and boxes of produced to Loaves and Fishes.

the-food-initiative-6-lettuceThe Food Initiative is based on the highly successful, Boston-based Food Project. This summer, working on acreage graciously provided by a donor, two groups of teens will maintain and harvest locally grown organic produce, one group working in June, the second in July. Food Initiative internships are paid work supported by sponsorships. Sponsorships (donors) are being sought to cover the cost per student:  $1300 per student, a sum from which $900 is paid directly to the student for work done,  with the balance being used for the requisite 4 work-T-shirts with the Mission Clarksville logo, $12.50 for educational supplies, $50.00 for transportation (students will be picked up and transported to their work site), and $157.44 designated for payroll tax.  The student pay is based on $6 per hour for a 40 hour week.

The second component is called The Edge, an internship that run throughout the school year. This component employs teenagers from diverse backgrounds for community work projects including yard maintenance and even building wheelchair ramps for those in need of such assistance.

Into the Wild is a monthly wilderness experience that combines ropes courses, camping, caving and mountain climbing, tools that build teamwork and leadership by challenging young people “beyond their comfort zones.”

Participants are recommended by teachers and counselors who assess which students might reap the greatest benefit from this program. The nominees then go through a process of screening and interviews before a determination is made. By selecting a diverse group from all city and Fort Campbell schools,  Mission Clarksville is immediately “building bridges” throughout the community.

On the Mission Clarksville Team are:

  • Patrick Smith: Mission Clarksville  Executive Director
  • Catherine Smith: Program Director, the Food Initiative
  • Devon Jones: Program Director, The Edge
  • Adam Lewis: Program Director, Into the Wild
  • Sandra Schwartz: Administrator
  • Richard Schwartz: Chairman of the Board
  • Board Members: Jennifer Ellis, Regina Clift, Robert Jones, and Tim Catchim,

For more information on Mission Clarksville, or to become a sponsor, contact the organization at the following: www.missionclarksville.org.


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