HYPE team working to become Champions of Change

Calvin Whitmire
Lakelands Connector, July 7, 2021

During this time of uncertainty, one Laurens County group has been working hard to become “Champions of Change.”

The Laurens County Bridging the Gap Advocacy HYPE team is composed of students from schools and communities in the Laurens area working as one united team to bring about change in the community.

HYPE stands for Healthy Young People Empowerment. It is a curriculum-based youth engagement program designed by Wholespire (formally Eat Smart, Move More SC) to build the skills of youths to become a greater voice in their communities.

The Laurens County School District Hype team includes middle and high school students from both Laurens and Clinton. They have worked to address the issue of unsafe playgrounds, unsafe passage to schools and parks, and lack of accessibility to fresh vegetables in lower-income communities.

The HYPE team has worked to have pedestrian signs and flashing school lights installed to make the entrance to the school safer. They have worked to restore and update abandoned parks in the area. They have also implemented a fresh vegetable garden to help provide fresh vegetables in lower-income neighborhoods.

People who the group met and worked with include Laurens Mayor Nathan Senn, Waterloo Mayor Barbara A. Smith, Gray Court Mayor Stellartean Jones, Laurens City Council, Laurens County Council, DOT, Laurens Park and Recreation, Churches, Laurens Rotary Clubs, Laurens Exchange Club, and Laurens District 55 School.

Even in times of COVID-19, the team has been able to make change in the community. Though its plans for a countywide Kids Kickball Festival in June 2020 had to be postponed because of CDC guidelines, the group still had a productive year. Members helped improve the community through the renovation of Hickory Tavern Park and by helping restore and repaint the railings and awnings of an older member of the community. They also worked to maintain the garden to provide fresh vegetables for the community. All of this was accomplished while adhering to CDC regulations.

The HYPE team looks forward to making Laurens County a safer and more enjoyable place to live by putting their skills to use and being a greater voice in the community. It hopes to be able to set the plan in motion for the Kickball Festival at the abandoned football field it helped restore. The HYPE team’s next goal is to build a greenhouse to improve the garden’s productivity.