BE THE CHANGE - Youth learning the power of voice, small acts

By Laura LeveringFebruary 2, 2022

1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Rhonda Casby, left, Middle School and Teen Center staff, gives instructions to students prior to participating in “Backwards Day” activities. The event obstacle was an opportunity for youth to have fun while learning valuable life lessons about the importance of doing things differently. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Paul Wesley, Middle School and Teen Center youth, jumps backwards through hoops as part of the “Backwards Day” obstacle course. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ambrosia Johnson, Middle School and Teen Center youth, attempts to get a basketball in the hoop by tossing it backwards. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Gregory Dasta, a youth enrolled at the Middle School and Teen Center, transitions from a scooter to the next obstacle during “Backwards Day” on Jan. 31. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs ) VIEW ORIGINAL

The effects of COVID-19 have undoubtedly been felt by everyone in the community, leaving one of Fort Gordon’s leaders optimistic and focused on the future.

Selena Doctor-Smith, Middle School and Teen Center director, said that going into 2022, one of her main goals is to get youth to see that they can make a positive difference in the world, despite it being one of the most unprecedented times in history.

“We want our youth to know that they have a voice and impact positive change,” Doctor-Smith said. “Change starts with one person, one act at a time.”

Drawing inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., dozens of youth from the MSTC created posters with messages of inspiration and carried them during an organized “peace walk” alongside others in the community on Jan. 26. The event was intended to help students see the importance of having an open mind while also seeing that change begins with them.

“It starts with our youth,” Doctor-Smith said. “Now is the time to have those open discussions and to say, ‘This is what we want. We want peace, we want to live in a place where we can all come together and have a good time. We can agree to disagree, but still be able to sit next to each other.’”

Several students also gave presentations in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. then “broke bread” with one another by partaking in snacks.

“We want them to see it takes putting one foot in front of the other to become change makers,” Doctor-Smith said. “It doesn’t just happen overnight; it’s going to take one small step that turns into something huge to become something that’s unstoppable.”

As a follow-up to the peace walk, the MSTC hosted a “Backwards Day” less than a week later. Youth were treated to an afternoon of fun and educational activities that encouraged them to “look at their actions and find out how doing things different or reversing them may be an effective learning tool on how they can make positive changes,” Doctor-Smith explained. While youth participated in an obstacle course and backwards BINGO, staff took time to talk with them about possible real-life scenarios.

“For example, if you are always arguing with your parents … what is something that can change that? What can you do differently?” Doctor-Smith asked. “Don’t like what’s for dinner? Instead of complaining, ask if you can cook dinner … it could not only bring about a desired meal, but also give parents a break.”

It all comes down to getting students to see that “one small act can turn into something huge,” Doctor-Smith said. At a time when many students feel powerless, especially in the midst of the pandemic, having a voice and an impact are especially important in getting students to realize their worth and potential.

“We’ve had so many things happen within the last couple of years … but we want our youth to be able to know that they have a voice, and we want them to let their voice be something productive that’s going to help our community – to help our world become a better place,” Doctor-Smith said. “They are our future, so we want to help guide, facilitate them to know and to see the power in themselves. They are so powerful at their age right now, so they can start becoming the change, and all we have to do is step back and just give them the tools, so that’s what we are trying to do.”

Programs within the MSTC promote positive, healthy development through four main service areas: life skills, citizenship and leadership opportunities; art, leisure and recreation activities; mentoring, intervention and support services; and sports, fitness and health options.

Youth 11 through 18 years old, who are in grades 6-12, may participate in programs and activities at the center. Participants must be registered with Fort Gordon Child and Youth Services.

The Fort Gordon Middle School and Teen Center is located at 165 Brainard Ave.

Before and after school service are available. Stop by, visit the Gordon CYS Teen Facebook page, or call 706-791-6500, for more information.