Champions of Change Blog
- Posted byon October 10, 2012 at 1:19 PM EDT
Ridge Howell is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts in 4-H and Future Farmers of America.
What a fantastic surprise to be chosen as a Champion of Change and to represent the Philadelphia FFA and WB Saul high school of Agricultural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. Not an obvious location for one of the nation’s largest FFA chapters, Philadelphia is home to fourteen agricultural educators making strides in horticulture, animal science, natural resource management, food science, and agricultural production. As one of the head FFA advisors, I am responsible for trip coordination, Career Development Events, Leadership Conferences, and FFA activities throughout the high school. Saul boasts four Pennsylvania State FFA officers and currently one National FFA candidate. Needless to say, Saul has the best FFA chapter tee shirts around!
I teach Advanced Placement Environmental Science, AgroEcoogy, and Urban Gardening. With Saul’s agricultural uniqueness I have had the privilege to help found, coordinate, and facilitate the Henry Got Crops! Community Supported Agricultural Partnership between Saul High School, Weavers Way Cooperative, and Fairmount Park. This fantastic CSA allows students to have a true hands on working perspective of agricultural vegetable production, compost production, and currently, a native berry/fruit tree nursery. Henry Got Crops! serves as an example of true community partnership that supports students, their learning and their own personal growth. Appropriately named by an AgroEcology student for Saul’s location on Henry Avenue, Henry Got Crops! demonstrates the challenges and successes of farming without chemicals and enables students to see the value in sustainable crop production.
At Saul and within the Philadelphia FFA Chapter, I am also responsible for the coordination of the Outward Bound programming, the World Food Prize Programming, the Students Run Philly Style Marathon Training Program, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Engineers without Borders programming. I also co-facilitate the Mentally Gifted Program and work with a wonderful scientist through the Scientists as Teachers - Teachers as Scientists program. Most importantly, ecology speaking, I have facilitated the entire school’s recycling efforts. Through contamination, inappropriate receptacles and questionable collection methods, Saul can now safely say that it is recycling to the best of its ability and that the amount of recyclable waste entering landfills has been dramatically diminished.
Never did I think that Mr. Smokers faith in a little organization called It’s Our World Too or Mom’s relentless work in the small “truck” garden would land me a space as a Champion of Change. I hope that I am able to empower my students in such a manner and to create more agents of change within Philadelphia communities.
Jessica Naugle McAtamney is an agricultural educator at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- Posted byon October 10, 2012 at 12:03 PM EDT
Ridge Howell is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts in 4-H and Future Farmers of America.
Let me start by saying how honored I am to be chosen as a White House Champion of Change. I find it incredible to be recognized for something that I enjoy doing. I believe making a difference starts at home through a willingness to embrace change. While sometimes viewed as negative, change is often a really positive thing. Our future depends on change that will be sparked by the youth of our country, one family, one community, one state, one country at a time. In order to really champion change, American youth need to be encouraged to lead and to serve. My goal is to spark this desire in other youth in my hometown and to spread this desire to create change around the country.
I was first inspired about four years ago after my first Oklahoma State FFA Convention. The primary theme of the convention was to create positive change in our own communities. I learned that I had the opportunities to impact change if I would just seize those opportunities. Upon returning from the convention I immediately started planning how I could practice making positive changes in my community. I decided to throw myself into community work; this would provide the best opportunity to champion change. Over the next three years, I became involved in every aspect of the community. I found that there are always new and better ways to do things and began seeking out opportunities to make a difference. The first event that I really had a hand in improving was the annual Senior Citizens’ Prom hosted by the Checotah High School Student Council. This project is exactly what it sounds like, a prom for the senior citizens of my community (and yes they do wear tuxedos and formal dresses, and the lady’s always have their hair done). This was a great way to involve many students in a fun way, and it naturally made me want to come up with more and more community service projects!
I helped orchestrate and work a town wide “trash off day” where my fellow FFA members and I hauled off about nineteen tons of trash and debris that had accumulated following two severe ice storms. One of my longest term community service projects is the Senior Citizens’ Lawn Mowing Program. I helped my agriculture education instructor create this program a little over three years ago. Each week during the summer, my fellow FFA members and I go to the local senior citizens’ center and draw two names. These two individuals are the recipients of a free lawn mowing service and sometimes other types of assistance around their homes. The best part of this program is the time spent with these elderly citizens, listening to the stories they tell while we are working. I have learned so many valuable life lessons from their knowledge and wisdom, beyond what I could ever learn in a classroom setting.
The project I’m most proud of was developed within the last year, following a grant application submitted by my agriculture education teacher. At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, my FFA chapter was selected for a National FFA “Food for All” grant. This grant gave my FFA chapter $2,500 dollars to plant a community garden. As the incoming chapter FFA president, I was able to help build this program from the ground up. To date we have picked over 1,680 pounds of produce including vegetables such as squash, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, jalapeno peppers, and eggplant. Through many hours of hard work the garden is still producing today. The produce is taken to our local senior citizen center and distributed to the citizens there. This is another great chance to gain knowledge and wisdom from the elders of my community and to learn more history about my community and my Native American culture.
I’m so thankful for the honor being bestowed upon me and realize I would have never had this opportunity had it not been for the continual support of my agriculture education teacher, Jason McPeak. This man is an example of community service and inspires me to be a service oriented citizen. If I could leave you with one thought, it would be a quote from Aristotle that says: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Ridge Howell is a high school senior in Checotah, Oklahoma.
- Posted byon October 4, 2012 at 3:59 PM EDT
Gregory L. Jeffrey is being honored as a Champion of Change for leading annual trips to Central America to provide vital medical services to people in need.
I knew nothing about eyeglass missions when I traveled on my first mission trip in the mid ‘90s. The experience was unforgettable and very rewarding. Fitting glasses on a person’s face and seeing their reactions to clear vision is an experience you will never forget. Yes, you give your time and effort to go on an eye glass mission, but the rewards are many.
The success of our missions requires a total team effort for the year leading up to the trip. We collect more than 1,000 pairs of used glasses per month and store donated supplies and medical equipment in our warehouse. We collaborate with Lions clubs in the destination city as well as with hospitals and professionals within our community. Our missions provide life-changing opportunities for those we serve. The people we serve would not have their vision restored without our help. As Lions, we are part of an international community of volunteers. This project is just one of the many ways our clubs exemplify humanitarian work and demonstrate the power of working together across borders.
Gregory L. Jeffrey of North Webster, Ind., has been a member of the Fort Wayne Central Lions Club since 1985.
- Posted byon October 4, 2012 at 3:52 PM EDT
Debbie Whittlesey is being honored as a Champion of Change for her disaster relief work in Joplin, Mo.
For 22 years I was a battered spouse. Pain and I knew each other very well. A women’s shelter in town helped me get protection and escape my situation. After that, I wanted to find a civic club so I could give back to my community and help others who were hurting. I saw a flier from the Lebanon Host Lions and noticed they supported the very shelter that had assisted me. I knew this civic organization was the one for me.
I have changed drastically since I became a Lion; probably even more so since the Joplin, Mo., tornado and working with Lions everywhere. I used to have low self-esteem, unable to look people in the eye and was battered and bruised. Since becoming a Lion, I have been trained to lead, to be confident and take pride in the organization I serve. In the days following the disaster in Joplin, I couldn’t stay away. I was simply amazed and astounded at the number of phone calls and e-mails from Lions across America — literally hundreds as soon as the tornado hit. Lions from many states sent much needed money to help in the immediate relief efforts. Also, Lions came to Joplin from across the nation just to work and to serve beside us.
Debbie Whittlesey of Lebanon, Mo., is a member of the Lebanon Host Lions Club and has been a Lion for eight years.
- Posted byon October 4, 2012 at 3:43 PM EDT
Douglas D. Rodenbeck is being honored as a Champion of Change for his work with young people, including supervising the largest Leo club fundraiser on record.
I became a Lion more than 30 years ago because Lions give 100 percent of the funds we raise to causes. I’ve long been involved with community efforts, acting as a volunteer firefighter for more than 40 years. I’m known as “Fireman Doug” around town because of my work with fire prevention in schools, during which I’ve taught fire safety to more than 125,000 kids in the past 35 years.
When I heard about the need for family suites at the St. Joe Regional Medical Center Burn Unit, I thought it would be a great project that we could work on with our Leos. After about 18 months of fundraising, gathering checks and exploring matching grant initiatives, our youth leadership program raised $170,000 for facilities to house the families of critically ill patients. This is the largest known fundraiser undertaken by Leos, which shows the power of what we can accomplish when we work with young people. Additionally, Leos provide a vital resource to society. We’re never going to have too many volunteers, and community service early in life makes youngster well-rounded adults because they learn what it’s like to be part of a community.
Douglas D. Rodenbeck of Fort Wayne, Ind., is a member of the Anthony Wayne Lions Club and has been a Lion for 33 years.
- Posted byon October 4, 2012 at 2:26 PM EDT
Laura Rieg is being honored as a Champion of Change for her work in providing educational opportunities for children.
After achieving a master’s degree in early childhood special education, I wanted to be a part of an organization that is service oriented. My Lions club was of particular interest because it serves preschool children with special needs. Our members are educators, speech pathologists, a retired school nurse, school psychologists, retired diagnosticians and a grandmother of a student with special needs. Our connections within the school system keep us informed about the needs of the children at each preschool center. Together, we work to serve these needs within our community in a variety of ways, from providing literacy packages for families at women’s shelters to screening the vision of all preschool students in our area.
All Americans benefit when children grow beyond their circumstances. Having the back and forth interaction between a parent and a child from birth builds communication and cognitive skills from the beginning. This interaction with books also establishes that reading and learning are valued in the home.
Laura Rieg of Portsmouth, Va., has been a member of the Portsmouth Children First Lions Club since 2008.
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