Making a difference in your community can be an extremely satisfying experience. A group of Tuscaloosa teenagers is learning that lesson through a program called Think Community. These students come in and build their own service projects from scratch.
These are juniors and seniors from Northridge High School. They came into the organization with nothing more than ideas. From there, they created two community service projects.
Not only are they helping their neighbors. But they're learning valuable organization and leadership skills as well.
Every Thursday, 21-one year-old David Wilson spends an hour at his alma mater, Northridge High School. That's when Wilson, a recent University of Alabama grad, gets to see his dream come to life.
"It was back then, towards the end of my senior year in high school, before my freshman year in college that I was like 'you know what? it would great to start something in Tuscaloosa that gave high school students an opportunity to start something, community initiatives," he said.
Four years later Think Community was launched. Fifteen juniors and seniors were charged with the task of coming up with community service projects, and finding the means to get those projects funded. They split into two groups.
"We had the kids for a few weeks just talk about what they are passionate about. And then from there they decided to address whatever they were passionate about," said Wilson.
One group came up with Swim Splash; a project which provides free after school swim lessons for elementary-age children.
"I swam my whole life and so did another person in my group. We know its importance and how it could save a life," said Martha Kate Mullin.
The other group formed the Spring Cleaning for Reading Book Drive; a project which encourages literacy by giving children books *they're allowed to keep*.
"Our inspiration was in the halls because so many people lack basic reading skills and that drive to read," said Katie Marie McEntyre
Currently, twelve children are enrolled in swimming. Two-thousand books have been given away. The students involved had full control of their projects. They hit the streets and presented their plan. Asked for monetary donations and resources. Secured facilities. And made good on those investments.
"We went around to local banks and businesses and restaurants that we go to and asked for donations and told them what swim splash was all about and most people were on board," said Mullins.
Northridge principal, Isaac Espy, says this group proves teenagers have plenty to contribute if given the chance.
"This is an amazing group because they're very unselfish with their time, with their energy," he said.
"If every single high school student figured out what they were passionate about and went out and took a stand to form a group like this, it would just be awesome. Everyone can make a difference," said McEntyre.