TROY — Seeing a crowd of teenagers in red shirts walking down city streets was not unusual this past week.
Teen Leadership Troy held their week-long learning experience for the teens to learn more about what it takes for a community to run.
Concord first-grade teacher Myra Sanders is one of ten adults on the Teen Leadership Troy committee. She said Teen Leadership Troy is similar to its parent program, Leadership Troy, in how the program focuses on an aspect of the community each day.
However, instead of one day a month for a year, Teen Leadership Troy spans over a week.
“It mirrors the Leadership Troy program, which is a year-long program where community members learn about different aspects of the community such as nonprofits, government or education,” she said.
Sanders said the students are juniors going to be seniors and go through a rigorous screening process before getting selected.
“The kids have to write essays to tell what they think are the three main problems facing Troy and how they feel this problem should be addressed,” she said. “They also have to have two letters of recommendation, one from a teacher and one from someone in the community. They have to be in academic good standing, and we review their academic standing with five other teachers.”
On Monday, the teens participated in an online poverty simulation with the United Way, decided and distributed $5,000 in grant monies through Project GIFT and performed community service at Franklin House. On Tuesday, they visited the jail and Social Services, RT Industries, took a tour of Riverside and went to Vision Mentors.
Midweek on Wednesday the teens visited Miami County Courthouse and listened to Andrew Wannamacher; Troy City Schools with superintendent Eric Herman; participated in a negotiation activity at the Troy Area Chamber of Commerce and heard a motivational speech from city councilman Brock Heath.
Thursday focused on learning about city government with Mayor Mike Beamish and city council members to discuss students’ perceived problems in Troy and how to correct them.
Michael Ham is a member of the Teen Leadership Troy committee and a 2008 graduate of the program. He said his favorite day of the week is city government day.
“That really is the time they get to express to the leaders of the community what they like about Troy, what’s good about Troy, and what they feel can be improved to make it better,” he said. “I love seeing what they come up with.”
Afterward the students toured and participated in an activity at the Troy Daily News, and competed against each other during the Amazing Race scavenger hunt.
The Overfield Tavern was one of the locations that participated in the amazing race, as well as city hall, the Lincoln statue, Around About Books, the local history library, Troy-Hayner Cultural Center and the Masonic Temple.
Terry Purke is a volunteer at the Overfield Tavern. As part of the teen’s challenge, they learn about Troy’s early beginnings and how the pioneers would have lived 200 years ago.
“I point out to the young folks that as time changes our skill sets change,” he said. “So I introduced them to a skill that everyone would have known about and been able to do.”
That skill was starting a fire with a piece of flint. The first of the five teams to make it to Overfield Tavern — which was made up of Parker Hench, Kayla Niswonger, Adriana Sehlhorst and Jared Bair — found the task to be more trying than it sounded.
“It was hard,” Hench said. “Trying to get the spark going was a lot work, but it was also fun.”
Prizes for the Amazing Race were provided by Buffalo Wild Wings and Tim Horton’s.
On their last day, the students went on the Downtown Ghost Tour and present checks from Project GIFT.
Niswonger shared how she had learned more about her community she did not know before and would not have learned otherwise.
“Throughout the week we got to go to all kinds of different places and really learn how Troy works,” she said. “I learned a lot and had a good time.”