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Leaving It Better – by Rodger Dinwiddie, Executive Director


“Your legacy should be that you made it better than it was when you got it.”  Lee Iacocca

This past week I saw a wonderful story on News Channel 5 about a group of local high school students who truly are leaving a part of their world much better!  Students from Ravenwood High School are working with Habitat for Humanity to improve the quality of life for one homeowner in Franklin, Tennessee. They have raised over $60,000 and are working with Habitat each weekend in February and March to complete the home.

Another story about a Ravenwood High School student had appeared just a few days earlier before this great story of students involved in such a wonderful act of service. The earlier story reported that a handgun had been found in a backpack at the school. What a contrast in stories about young people.  Too often it seems that the news we hear about young people is not great.  Behavior problems, acts of violence, use of alcohol and other drugs, and the pain often resulting from their poor choices seem to dominate the coverage of young people. Good news stories such as this one about the students at Ravenwood often go untold. In fact, as Colin Powell has been quoted, “More young people are at promise than at risk.”

What’s most amazing to me is that if we listen to young people we can find solutions to the problems and challenges they face … maybe even solutions to the problems of violence, guns in school, as well as the absence of empathy and concern for others. Youth Voice is important! When students and adults partner together in true, meaningful conversation and commitment to action, solutions are discovered.

Karen Pittman, the co-founder and President and Chief Executive Officer for the Forum for Youth Investment says, “The best way to “fix problems” is to engage youth as problem-solvers.  And all young people need and deserve access to opportunities to learn, make a difference, and overcome the problems they face.” One of the ways young people overcome is through service. They want to give, serve, lead and love. Their empathy and good will can be contagious, as is evidenced by the spirit of these young people at Ravenwood High School..

At STARS we are committed to programs and services that foster meaningful relationships with young people where adults and students partner to make their schools and communities better. Together we can and do leave things better! If we can help your school develop strategies to capture youth voice please contact us at 615-279-0058.


STARS is deeply committed to creating a culture and work space that centers on the power of relationships, that values diversity of perspective and experience, and that honors the dignity, worth, and contributions of all.