Student Ambassadors Continued Community Service Despite COVID-19
This year, 2020, has reminded us that our community needs are not being met fully by existing systems. The COVID-19 pandemic brought into sharper focus issues such as access to healthcare, education, and healthy food.
The 4-H/Middle Earth Student Ambassadors for Community Health spent the fall and winter of 2019 developing their project with a focus on mental health and wellness. As the pandemic swept around the globe, it became clear that the students needed to adapt their goals to a virtual setting.
One of the team’s goals this summer was creating an online community portal that compiles resources to help teens care for their mental health, especially during stay-at-home restrictions. When possible, the resources are shared in both English and Spanish. The web site directs viewers to national and local organizations, such as Safe + Sound Somerset and its “Ask Ava” podcast. The podcast is designed by teens for teens, and discusses topics such as healthy relationships.
The Student Ambassadors also revisited their project from last year – the revitalization of Mariposa Park in Bound Brook. While properly social distancing, students refreshed the park by mulching and planting new flowers. They also repainted the colorful crosswalks and murals at the park and in front of Lafayette Elementary School. The Student Ambassadors believe it is important to remain committed to former projects, and maintain the work started by previous cohorts.
The students also worked to promote community
well-being by addressing food insecurity. As more people turn to food banks for nutrition in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, the students were inspired to build a Little Free Pantry in Mariposa Park.
The students also worked to promote community well-being by addressing food insecurity. As more people turn to food banks for nutrition in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, the students were inspired to build a Little Free Pantry in Mariposa Park. The team members made a virtual presentation to the Bound Brook Town Council and received approval. The students built a small pantry that provides food items to the local community through a “take and leave what you can” approach. The Students Ambassadors hope the Little Free Pantry will offer some relief to families who may need extra help. In addition, the team has contacted local organizations and coordinated a schedule to keep the pantry stocked with donations year-round.
To inform our community about the new Little Free Pantry, the Student Ambassadors updated the story in their Storybook Trail. The Storybook Trail, another past project, is a series of 12 podiums along a walking trail in Billian Legion Park, also in Bound Brook. Each contains an illustrated page of a story presented in English and Spanish. The new story discusses food insecurity and the purpose of food pantries in a way children can understand.
Connect with the Student Ambassadors for Community Health alumni and follow the team’s progress on Twitter. Track all of the Next Generation Community Leaders teams through the hashtag #NJLeaders2030.