Ignite action


Camryn Corbin

Nora Goodman-Bryan (10) and Ema Wagner (11) presenting their project at Youth Ignite.

Youth Ignite is an opportunity for the youth of Memphis to learn about eight well-thought out ideas and/or programs presented by other teens meant to benefit the greater Memphis area. In the end, the students decide which presentation was the best, and the top three are announced and given 200 dollars to kick-start their program.

“Start with an issue or topic you are truly passionate about and think of solutions. Then, make social connections because with the extra support, you may find volunteers and sponsors for your cause,” Sri Verajan (12) said.

Ema Wagner (11), Nora Goodman-Bryan (10), Hannah Piecuch (12) and Velrajan, were all apart of Youth Ignite this year. Wagner, Piecuch and Goodman-Bryan worked on a project together called K.E.Y Memphis, (Knowledge Empowering Youth), while Velrajan worked on a separate project called Root to Shoot.

Velrajan was giving educational presentations for Shelby Farms Park when she discovered many kids in Memphis did not know how certain vegetables were grown and thus felt no need to eat healthy. She decided if there were youth-led garden and nutrition workshops kids would feel motivated to eat healthily.

“My goal is to  teach kids about the importance of nutrition education in the fight against the poverty/obesity epidemic,” Velrajan said.

Velrajan felt the hardest part about her project wasselling the idea that educational gardens are the solution to the poverty/obesity epidemic.” Although she was not one of the winning groups, she remains motivated to keep spreading awareness of her cause.

“I will continue to give talks on nutrition and hunger,” Velrajan said. “I believe that if I continue to spread awareness, I could make a positive impact on the community.”

Wagner, Goodman-Bryan and Piecuch met through a community action team at Planned Parenthood, where the three girls serve as leaders, and created K.E.Y. as their Community Action Team’s project. The goal of K.E.Y. is to provide a safe space where students are free to discuss topics such as comprehensive sex, which is a teaching that focuses on all aspects of sex including abstinence, protection, etc.

“Our topic is not only comprehensive sex education but also the topics that surround it and affect us as teenagers as well, for instance: body image, gender identity, healthy relationships, etc.” Wagner said.

The girls struggled with potential opposition they could face from parents or students who do not like their association with Planned Parenthood or who disagree with comprehensive sex education in general, as well as figuring out how they would properly present their idea to the audience.

“Youth Ignite was challenging in that we had to do a lot of work on our presentation in a very short time, but the experience was really rewarding, getting to connect with interested youth,” Piecuch said.

The trio struggled with funding and finding free meeting places around the Memphis area that are accessible to different groups in the region.

However, Wagner, Piecuch, and Goodman-Bryan still plan to have bi-monthly meetings and cover as much curriculum as possible until their program takes a hiatus during the summer. By the end of the year, they hope to have selected a few members to be trained so they can re-create K.E.Y. in their neighborhoods and communities to further spread knowledge.

All the girls were thankful for the opportunity to present their programs to the Memphis community and hope to have brought inspiration to other teenagers.