Jackson, MS—Young people in Mississippi are being empowered with the education, the skills, and now the funds to improve the health of their peers and affect the greater community.  Teen Health Mississippi (THMS), a state-wide, youth-focused organization addressing the sexual and mental health of teens and young adults across the state has introduced a mini-grant program for youth starting in 2019.  

The inaugural Spark Youth Grant has been developed through a partnership with Advocates for Youth.  The purpose of the award is to help an individual or group develop an idea that addresses unique challenges that impact the youth in their communities.  Selected awardees will have three months to complete their projects, and they will receive technical assistance from Teen Health Mississippi throughout the planning and implementation of their idea.  

This project furthers THMS’ mission to equip teens with the knowledge and skills so they may grow into health adults and move Mississippi forward. The award recognizes an individual or a youth group for their demonstration of enthusiasm, initiative, and responsibility.  The first $500 mini grant has been awarded to the Durant Mayor’s Youth Council.

“I feel grateful and appreciative to have the honor of being awarded the Spark Youth Grant for the year 2019,” shares Shandrea Whitt, graduating senior at Holmes County Central High School. “This grant will not only help the Mayor’s Youth Council achieve our goal to effectively educate our peers, but also gives us the opportunity to bring something new and innovative to the community.”

The Durant MYC will host a youth-led weekend program called “ Supporting the Youth of Our Future.” The Durant MYC will use a combination of peer-to-peer education and guest speakers to address teen health, bullying, peer pressure, decision-making, violence, and education.  In planning the program, the Durant MYC has been deliberate to incorporate interactive ways to involve the participants, provide information, and have fun in the process.  

Durant is one of several small cities in Holmes County.  According to County Health Rankings, Holmes County had the worst health outcomes of all the counties in Mississippi in 2018.  Factors including smoking, obesity, mental health, sexually transmitted infections, and high school graduation are all considered to compile the rankings across the nation.  The project coordinator for the Durant Mayor’s Youth Council, Cardell Wright, noted, “Not too often are we, in small communities, afforded the opportunities to effect change in our area of influence due to a lack of funding and support.  We are thankful to receive this Spark Youth Grant.”

In their application, the Durant MYC stated, “We believe it is time for us to do something instead of sitting back and letting things happen when they can be prevented.”  You can expect change in Durant as these young people become leaders over the next decade.

Teen Health Mississippi will accept another round of applications for a second Spark Youth Grant on July 1, 2019.  Please visit www.teenhealthms.org for more information.

Teen Health Mississippi is a nonpartisan nonprofit that envisions a Mississippi built on a foundation of healthy communities in which all teens have access to high-quality sex education and youth-friendly healthcare services. All of Teen Health Mississippi’s work is in partnership with youth and falls within three primary domains: policy and advocacy, training and capacity building, and programs and initiatives.

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