Today is Camp Fire USA’s Absolutely Incredible Kids Day—a day when Camp Fire USA encourages adults to recognize the accomplishments of young people in their lives. There is no better way that to recognize the Camp Fire USA’s Teens in Action Program in Prince Georges County, MD for their commitment to service and strengthening the community. During the past three years, the Camp Fire USA Teens in Action, Patuxent Area Council have completed service projects that have served the poor, the homeless, the elderly and the environment. In addition, they have looked for areas of the community that were in need of advocacy and they have prepared advocacy projects. In the past two years, our teens have committed 20,642 hours of service. Most of them have earned Presidential Service Award for their service.
They have served Habitat for Humanity, Catholic Charities, Camp programs for Children, tutored children in Public and Private Schools, baking for troops overseas, written valentines to Veterans, helped Red Cross with disaster readiness, Planted gardens for the elderly as well as developing and advocating for the homeless, and developing a teen driving safety program to educate their peers on Teen Driving safety.
Their projects have had a huge impact on those they serve. The soldiers wrote and told them that they made their day, that the cookies that they sent were a touch from home. The Commanding Officer reported that young men who were having a rough time lit up when they saw the cookies and told stories of home. When the teens built for Habitat for Humanity, they touched the lives of a family with four children. The got to know the family and remembered them at Christmas and on Holidays for then next year. Tutoring at the public school was a high point for the teens and the elementary school children. The teens felt well about helping little children are successful and the children looked up to the “big kids.” Seniors who had their gardens prepared for spring welcomed the teens and gave them such wonderful feedback. Most reported that they would not have been able to have spring and summer gardens without the help of the teens. The teens have created a puppet show that tells kids how to stay safe and are presenting this to schools across the region. Over the past year, the teens have written grants to support a program for homeless children and reach out to them weekly with a Camp Fire USA Children’s Club and are planning second year of a summer camp program.
Their most recent advocacy program, that of working on issues around teen driving safety, has had a major impact on the students, their school community including parents and faculty, and on the larger community around the school. The teens realized that you have to start early to get the message of driving safety to the people so they created a bike rodeo for children and taught the rules of the road thorough practice. Teens from the project were recently invited to participate in the first National Teen Driving Safety Summit in Washington DC where they joined 90 youth from across the nation in addressing this number one killer of youth. During the summit, the teens were interviewed by reporters, participated in a roundtable for the press, and developed strategies to implement a regional driving safety forum in the spring of 2008. They created a dramatic presentation which has received great reviews from the State Police, Maryland Parks and Planning, State Farm Insurance participants in the NBC 4 Health Fair, and earned the a place on “Good Morning America”. Based on their research of the needs of the community, they are presently translating the presentation to other languages so as to get their message to non-English speaking youth. After 17 teens were killed in a two week period in their community, they decided to take all they know and to host a Teen Driving Safety Conference on April 26, 2008 (Global Youth Service Day) to help other teens from schools and non-profit agencies plan and implement driving and community safety projects. For their effort they have been selected as one of ten groups who are finalist in the Project Ignition Driving Safety Project.
On a recent Saturday, the teens volunteered to share their message with Emergency Managers from across the region and were hailed with a standing ovation for their message and the method of delivery. One individual—a state trooper said he did not eat his fast food in the car but rather waited until he arrived to follow the teen’s message of not being distracted while driving. The teens have created commercials, reenacted a crash scenario, and learned from experts about the hazards of distractions. They are appearing on XM Satellite Radio to share their message and on a local ABC affiliate to encourage teens and parents to take teen driving safety and emergency readiness seriously. Their message is timeless and will continue as part of their service project. For this project alone, the teens have committed over 4500 hours of service. More information about these amazing young people can be found at www.campfireusa-patuxent.org .