SC Teens Stand and Deliver at 6th Annual Youth Summit

SC Teens Stand and Deliver at 6th Annual Youth Summit

More than 100 teenagers and adults from across South Carolina attended the 6th Annual Youth Summit on July 27th at The Meeting Place Church in Columbia to learn about youth-led policy changes and how to advocate effectively. Hosted by the Healthy Young People Empowerment (HYPE) Project and Eat Smart Move More South Carolina, the Summit featured Leading to Change, a nationally-recognized team building and engagement training agency.

“Leading to Change brought tons of energy to this year’s Summit,” says Trimease K. Carter, ESMMSC youth engagement manager. “Their sessions incorporated singing, dancing, inspiration, and motivation. Based on evaluations and feedback, both youth and adult participants had a great time.”

HYPE Project teams from Orangeburg, Anderson, Kershaw, Laurens, Spartanburg, and Richland counties presented videos on their successes in establishing policy and environmental changes in their communities. Videos highlighted the worked youth have done to implement the following changes:

  • Kershaw County: Youth continued their healthy food choices campaign within the community and the school cafeteria by developing an outreach program to teach residents and students about benefits of making healthy food choices.
  • Anderson County: The HYPE Team continued their safe physical activity project through park cleanup, installing a Born Learning Trail, and ADA accessible sidewalks.
  • Orangeburg County: In addition to continuing their park improvements project, youth focused on educating the public on the dangers of tobacco use.
  • Laurens County: The HYPE Team led an effort to revitalize an abandoned ballfield for community use.
  • Spartanburg County: The HYPE Team is working with Spartanburg City Parks and Recreation Department as teen ambassadors to help engage more teens with programs and activities.
  • Richland County: Youth are working with administrators at W.A. Perry Middle School to create safer routes to school for students.

This year’s Youth Summit also featured six breakout sessions addressing leadership and youth engagement skills. Leading to Change led four breakout sessions where attendees learned about the true colors of their powerful leadership style and about diversity, culture, and commonalities you can’t see.

Kathryn Johnson of LiveWell Kershaw, led a session for youth titled “Hope is Not a Plan of Action.”  During this session, attendees identified something they wished to accomplish, and took that “hope” and turned it into “action” by developing a realistic plan.

Finally, three students from TedXYouth@Columbia facilitated a student-led session where participants had a reasoned, informed discussion around a set of current, controversial topics.

“This year’s breakout sessions were a great mix for youth and adults.  We hope that attendees learned something that they can take back to their families, schools, churches, and communities,” says Carter.

You can see pictures from the Youth Summit on the ESMMSC Facebook page, and all HYPE Team Videos are on YoutTube.

Winning HYPE Team Videos

First Place
Anderson County

Second Place
Laurens County

Third Place
Richland County

York County HYPE Team achieves success with multiple projects

York County HYPE Team achieves success with multiple projects


Over the past three years, community leaders in the small town of Clover, located in York County, have been motivated to make their community healthier. They’ve been taking steps to increase access to healthy foods and physical activity in various settings. Even a group of teens at Blue Eagle Academy joined the movement to impact their school community and surrounding neighborhoods positively.

The York County Healthy Young People Empowerment (HYPE) team, made of up of students at Blue Eagle Academy who are also members of the Boys and Girls Club of York County, are focusing on increasing access to physical activity at their school and Junior Eagle Academy. They formed in 2015 as a result of the Let’s Go! South Carolina Initiative.

During the first phase of their HYPE project, they completed a beautification project in the courtyard of their school to create a more pleasant and safer environment.  Through this project, which was a continuation of an initiative initially started with Lowe’s Home Improvement, youth refurbished flowerbeds, donated outdoor vases and plants and cleaned overgrown areas.  Students can now enjoy outdoor activities in the courtyard.

In addition to the beautification project, the Youth Team donated portable play equipment to the Junior Blue Eagle Academy, which serves grades 3-5. During a planning session, the HYPE Team learned there wasn’t enough play equipment available for all of the students, so they wanted to do something to help. The team used some of their available funds to donate soccer balls, playballs, basketballs, hula-hoops, a flag football set, and storage equipment to the Junior Academy.

According to their lead adult advisor Rasheeda White, “When we presented the equipment to the school principal and lead teacher, they were surprised and happy to receive it. The students were happy too!”

Due to the successes of their first project, the HYPE Team received additional support for a continuation project to focus on a track and field located between the two schools. The school district has an open community use policy, which allows community members to outdoor recreational areas outside of school hours. Because the community uses the track and field for physical activity, and students use it during and after school, the HYPE Team knew they wanted to make improvements.

The HYPE Team recognized that keeping the dog-friendly area clean helps attract more walkers and runners, so they made cleanliness a high priority. In addition to the team keeping the area clean with litter pick-up on Thursdays, they will soon be adding doggie waste stations equipped with bags for dog walkers to use. The team will also be making basketball court improvements, such as purchasing and installing new nets and goals.

The York County HYPE Team is a true testament to the effectiveness of youth engagement. Not only did youth take the appropriate to steps to successfully advocate for outdoor improvements, but they also learned the importance of social responsibility and helping others.

Youth Advocacy: Laurens County Youth Achieve Success with Safer Environments Projects

Youth Advocacy: Laurens County Youth Achieve Success with Safer Environments Projects

For decades, youth have led social movements across the United States. They’ve been in the news a lot, lately, speaking out against and for issues that are important to them. But, did you know that youth have been leading a healthy eating and active living movement here in South Carolina? It’s called the Healthy Young People Empowerment (HYPE) Project, and youth are finding out just how powerful their voices are, especially in Laurens County.

Through a community health improvement project, the Laurens County HYPE Team, hosted by Bridging the Gap Advocacy, a non-profit that addresses youth development, and in partnership with Eat Smart Move More South Carolina, recognized that their community isn’t as safe as it should be. They identified one of many important areas of need: safe passages near Sanders Middle School.

Like many adult-led community coalitions, youth ranging in ages 12-17, set out to make a difference in their community. They conducted a walkability assessment near Sanders Middle School, developed an action plan, and rallied to present their findings and request for improvement to the Laurens County Council. Youth asked County Council to make the area surrounding the middle school safer for students to walk, through the addition of sidewalks, street lamps, stoplights, crossing guards, and signage. Council agreed to purchase warning signs near the school. This success was just the tip of the iceberg, and they’re not giving up on the rest of their safety requests. They want to encourage decision makers to do more to make the area safer around the school.

These up-and-coming young leaders in Laurens County are continuing their mission of making their community a healthier place to live. They’ve already worked with a local master gardener, started a community garden, and given the harvest to residents. Plus, they received permission to revitalize an abandoned baseball field and built community support for improvements to make it a safe place to be physically active. Bridging the Gap Advocacy has held kickball tournaments and other physical activity events for the community at the new and improved field.

Youth plan to follow up with County Council regarding requests for making school safety a priority; host an after-school walk to Bridging the Gap Advocacy and invite decision makers to participate; start a petition regarding improvements near the school; and design and send postcards to decision makers regarding the need for improvements.

Through the HYPE Project, middle- and high school-aged students are learning how to become effective advocates for change in their communities. There are currently 13 HYPE teams in South Carolina; the majority of these teams are focused on safe and accessible places to be physically active and nutrition. Youth like the Laurens County HYPE Team are making change happen!

South Carolina Teens Attend HYPE Project’s Youth Summit at SC State University

South Carolina Teens Attend HYPE Project’s Youth Summit at SC State University

Close to 160 teenagers and adults from across South Carolina attended the 5th Annual Youth Summit on July 15 at SC State University to learn about youth-led policy changes and how to advocate effectively. Hosted by the Healthy Young People Empowerment (HYPE) Project and Eat Smart Move More South Carolina, the Summit featured Chris Suggs, a nationally-known social justice activist and founder of Kinston Teens in Kinston, North Carolina.

Suggs, a rising freshman at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, shared his experiences as a leader on the local, state, and national levels, as well as his work with the non-profit he started, Kinston Teens.

“Leadership builds one’s confidence and self-esteem, leaving you with a feeling of knowing that you can change the world,” said Suggs. “Leadership also builds your network and net worth —exposing you to opportunities to meet new people and to earn money to make a living.”

Suggs stressed the importance of building a strong support system by surrounding yourself with positive people; making good choices that define your future; and being determined to meet your goals no matter the obstacles you face.

HYPE Project teams from Orangeburg, Anderson, Barnwell, Berkeley, Hampton, Florence, Kershaw, Laurens, and York counties presented videos on their successes in establishing policy and environmental changes in their communities. Youth worked with local leaders to implement the following changes:

  • Healthy food choices at ball park concessions stands (Barnwell and Kershaw counties)
  • Park cleanup, safety improvements, and signage (Anderson, Florence and Orangeburg counties)
  • Faith-based community garden to feed the community members (Berkeley County)
  • Installing crosswalk signs and caution lights near schools (Laurens County)
  • Installing way-finding signs on trails (Hampton County)

This year’s Youth Summit also featured breakout sessions with one special treat for boys. Award-winning speaker and National Manager at, Patrick Patterson, spoke to boys about the importance of establishing strong relationships, keeping a positive circle of friends, and defining success – it’s not about money. He concluded his session with a How to Tie a Tie instruction. For this portion, ESMMSC held a necktie drive and collected over 900 neckties from individuals across the Midlands.

The youth had six other breakout session choices on avoiding risky behaviors, public speaking, how to advocate, how government works, perception of self, and how to make healthy eating and active living policies work in school through the NFL Fuel Up to Play 60.

Other special guests included: WACH FOX 57’s “Trendy” Fraendy Clervaud, Richland County Sherriff’s Deputy Curtis Wilson, and DJ Jeremiah. The Youth Summit was made possible by the Southeastern United Dairy Industry Association, BlueCross BlueShield of SC Medicaid and several other supporters.

Winning HYPE Team Videos
All HYPE teams were encouraged to submit a video summarizing their project for a friendly video competition.

First Place: Barwell County

Second Place: Kershaw County

Third Place: Orangeburg County