Local Challenges and a Better World

Jun 21st, 2019 | By | Category: NextGen South Carolina, Summer 2019

by Cayla Parker


Cayla Parker (New Ellenton, SC) will attend Johnson and Wales University in the fall. When not engaged with her NextGen group, she enjoys baking for her family, teachers, and friends.

In Aiken, South Carolina, our NextGen group created a basketball program at one of our local elementary schools. The school is located in an area where there is a high level of gang recruitment. I wanted to help with the program because I love to help kids, and I do not like seeing them getting into bad things at such a young age. All of the kids in the program are kids that might not have such a good life at home, and many of them think that no one cares about them. During the program, we help students with their homework, play games such as Red Rover, or Red Light Green Light, do arts and crafts, read, and play basketball. This year we are going to incorporate an activity called story circles, which is where we have them practice active listening skills. Story circles also help them get to know each other better and realize that they might have more in common than they thought.

For me, participating in NextGen has been an experience of a lifetime because I’ve been able to travel around the United States, learning about various communities and how young people address local challenges. For anyone to give a contribution to NextGen it is not just for kids to travel and make new friends; it’s for them to share their TRUTHS and share how they are helping their communities. NextGen gives kids the opportunity to use their voices and say I matter and what I want to do matters. It also shows young people that many problems they face aren’t just local in their own communities. It gives us the opportunity to feed off one another to try and help our communities and the world become a better place for everyone. I have done community work with my school’s Beta Club, but doing it with NextGen seems to hold greater meaning and potential.

I have always wanted to help my community but didn’t know where to start until I joined NexGen. I was finally able to see what and how I could help my community. I have been able to help kids with schoolwork and show them why school is important. I have helped to lead family literacy nights with my group to show people that even though we might not all look alike we can have the same goal. Our Aiken NextGen group is full of people from different backgrounds and points of view, but we come together because that is what we love to do and we love to do it together.

The recent Navajo Nation conference impacted me by helping me better understand yet another piece of American culture. I’ve continued to learn that you should never judge anyone no matter what or who they are. When we broke out into conference sessions, I went to the one about how there are a lot of native women missing and no one knows where they are.

Despite our seeming differences across the NextGen sites, each and every one of us is also working towards the same goal making our community and potentially the world a better place.

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.