After being introduced to the Next Generation Community Leaders program by Groundwork Elizabeth and the 2018 alumni, we were immediately excited about working with New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI) as the 2019 youth team. We are familiar with Groundwork and the City of Elizabeth through summer programs where we participated in activities like local environmental cleanups, summer camps, and helping at a neighboring wildlife refuge center. The Next Gen program however, offered us the opportunity to have a lasting impact on our community. We would be given the tools and the resources to target a pressing community health issue, in a way that we designed, focusing on making it sustainable. We would be limited only by our creativity. To us, this program sounded like a fantasy – a job where we could write our own job description while making a positive impact on our community.
“To us this program seemed like a fantasy, giving teenagers a job where we could write our own job description, all the while making a positive impact on our community.” Yousef and Noha Elbedwihy
We started our monthly meetings by discussing a plethora of health issues we felt were most critical in our city. We considered ideas ranging from helping the homeless, to caring for the elderly, improving traffic safety, and even creating a mentoring program for children in need of role models. After analyzing our potential plans for each of these ideas, we concluded our work needed to be a feasible program where we could set attainable goals and measure our success while maintaining a special partnership with local groups and the City of Elizabeth.
Our two coaches, our project leader and our consultant helped us explore our ideas. Over the past several months, we met with several community leaders, including a YMCA director, community gardeners, and a city councilwoman. We have now begun to seriously develop a program to promote the community’s health and our leadership skills.
There are still kinks that must be worked out before we implement our summer project, but there is no doubt that the 2019 Elizabeth Next Gen youth team will be able to make a real impact on our community, which we love so very much.
Follow Elizabeth’s Next Generation Community Leaders team to see their progress throughout July. Track all of the Next Generation Community Leaders teams through the hashtag #NJLeaders2030.