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Wanted: teens who can inspire change, spark passions

Multiple districts –  While staying home from school during quarantine last year, students likely experienced newfound time for creativity or a slump of boredom.

City High/Middle School freshman Sparsh Aiyar combined the two and made a video about 8 Things To Do when you’re bored during lockdown.

“My video content is about mental wellness and other miscellaneous topics such as things to do when you’re bored and advice and tips on staying healthy,” Sparsh explained.My ‘things to do when you’re bored’ video took so long to edit and I really liked the way it turned out!”

Sparsh’s video can be found on YouTube alongside several others written, filmed and edited by students involved in Teen CHARGE, a Wedgwood Christian Services student leadership group that promotes positive, peer-to-peer messaging in the areas of substance use, relationships and mental health.

Sparsh credits Teen CHARGE for giving him the drive to help others. 

Teen CHARGE gave me the chance to be helpful through the media and taught me how to create content that I hadn’t really been able to do without this program,” he said. “It gives you motivation and drive to do the things that you believe are right and lets you reach youth across the country through social media or internet videos.” 

Being a part of Teen CHARGE helped Comstock Park High School senior Tori Bloch feel less isolated while learning virtually. 

“When my school was virtual, I would stay in my room for eight hours a day doing work,” Tori said. “Joining our meetings and having a casual conversation relieved me of stress from the day.” 

Teen CHARGE focuses their messaging to empower peers (courtesy)

Stylish Origins

What began as a Wedgwood community-involved project, Pure Passion for Fashion, became a group of students focused on positive messaging through digital media.

Facilitated by Wedgwood Christian Services Group Specialist Gina Boscarino, Teen CHARGE came from a rebrand in Fall 2019. The new name and logo were voted on by students. 

“I really enjoy hearing student perspectives and watching them take ownership of the things they are passionate about,” Boscarino said. “That’s really inspired me and makes me feel hopeful for the future generation.” 

Though she serves as a facilitator, Boscarino says the students are the real leaders of the group and steer the group’s focus. 

“At our meetings, we discuss what promoting good content looks like and brainstorm ideas to promote our message,” she said. “The students are responsible for creating the content in whatever medium they want to explore, whether that be videos, writing blogs or making art or music.” 

Teen CHARGE is recruiting members for the summer to help raise awareness of social issues through social media
Teen CHARGE is recruiting members for the summer to help raise awareness of social issues through social media (courtesy)

Passion Projects

The COVID-19 pandemic moved the group online, and over the summer Teen CHARGE students met twice a month via Zoom and Google Classroom and worked to complete their goal of one project per month.

Tori got creative with making colorful graphics, sometimes using photos she took herself. 

“My biggest accomplishment in the program would simply have to be the amount of content I made; I tried to make quality content, and I think I fulfilled that goal,” she said. “My social media posts were informative, provided awareness, or were just fun and lighthearted.”

Sparsh incorporated playing guitar into his informative videos. 

“I am very passionate about playing guitar and making music,” Sparsh said. “I love playing music, I love listening to music and I even write about music in my school newspaper.” 

Being involved with a group of supportive, like-minded peers during the pandemic, Tori discovered her passion for mental health issues and the pandemic’s impact on her and her peers’ mental health. 

Teen CHARGE is recruiting members for the summer to attend bi-monthly meetings, discuss community issues and raise awareness of them through social media and content creation such as videos, blogs, music and artwork.

“I would love to see our numbers grow and return to in-person community events and service,” Boscarino said. “The students would love to eventually do presentations at schools to gain participation and social media followers and continue to be a resource for teens.” Interested middle and high school students in the greater Grand Rapids area can apply on their website. Applications are due by June 4.

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia and Kenowa Hills and is a roving reporter for Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN. Read Alexis' full bio

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