BLOOMINGTON — Activities for homeless youth, a play day for children in need, a financial aid and scholarships seminar and a Facebook video competition are projects by 18 McLean County high school upperclassmen hoping to make their part of the world a better place.

“I really think it’s important that kids my age impact the community and I saw this as a great way to do that,” said Chase Thurman, 16, a junior at Olympia High School in rural Stanford.

The four projects are part of Emerging Community Impact Partners, a new program of United Way of McLean County.

“The underlying goal is for United Way to connect with teens to instill the ideas of servant leadership while developing sustainable programs,” said Lyn Potts, one of the program’s five adult mentors and assistant general counsel for Illinois Farm Bureau.

The students, representing nine high schools, were divided among teams, each with at least one mentor. Students identified a problem and developed a plan to address it:

- Homeless children don’t have the same educational and social opportunities as other children, so one team developed monthly activities for children of Home Sweet Home Ministries’ Billy Shelper Center.

- Childhood obesity is a problem, so one team is organizing a “Get Up and Play Day” for 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. March 20 at the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal, 1615 Illinois St. Children in need are the target population for the physical activities and nutritional snacks, but the event is open to any child in McLean County, Thurman said.

“We’re hoping we can impact kids who then will want to live a healthier lifestyle, which will benefit them for the rest of their lives,” he said.

- There is limited knowledge among college-bound high school students regarding scholarships and financial aid, so a third team is organizing a seminar 12:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Heartland Community College, 1500 W. Raab Road, Normal.

“I hope we have a lot of parents and kids who want to learn about money so they don’t have a lot of debt after college,” said team member Eric Tomlin, 17, a senior at Heyworth High School.

- Obesity continues into high school, so a fourth team created a Facebook competition among high school physical education programs to produce a video demonstrating how their schools are making obesity obsolete. More information is at www.facebook.com/Obsolesity.

“We did not guide the students to the topics,” said Gina Mandros, United Way senior director of resource development. “I am pleased to see the issues they are trying to address.”


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