By Lisa Carolin
If you haven’t yet heard of the Chelsea Tech Changemakers, that’s about to change.
They are a group of 4-H teen leaders from Chelsea, who are midway through a 3-year, National 4-H and Microsoft project grant, which they are using to solve local issues with the use of technology.
Last fall, the Chelsea Tech Changemakers were invited by Microsoft to identify an issue in the community with which technology could be part of the solution.
“We told them teen mental health was the biggest issue that needed our help,” said 4-H staff member Sheri Montoye. “They see how friends struggle, and they want to do something about it.”
The Changemakers identified two goals for their project: 1.) To create a peer web of support, and 2.) To pull together a “tool box of technology” that can be helpful in some mental health situations.
This past summer, three of the teens went to Washington, D.C. where they presented their projects to the U.S. Department of Education and to a national audience of Microsoft staff. The teens learned how bills are created and had the chance to meet with Michigan members of Congress about teen mental health and technology.
“Also during the summer, five local teens hosted a technology hangout and try-it space at the summer community center held at the Washington Street Education Center,” said Montoye. “They learned from that effort and now have more ideas make that better and more accessible for teens.”
Montoye, along with student Arthur Keaton, attended the Adolescent Peer Support League conference in October near Washington, D.C. and nominated Chelsea High School for the work it has done in support of mental health.
CHS received a silver award at the event.
“In December, the teens hosted a training for area teens called Natural Helpers, a peer-helping training so participants could learn how to help our friends, how to take care of themselves, and how to know when and how to reach out to trusted and helping adults in the community,” said Montoye. “We trained 10 teens from four high schools across Wayne and Washtenaw County.”
The Chelsea teens participating in Changemakers include Joel Basar, Gavin Crawley, Arthur Keaton, Suhjin King, Maya Reames, and Cade Tjernagel.
Basar was a member of 4-H, specifically the Chelsea Go-Getters 4-H Club, when he decided to join the Chelsea Tech Changemakers.
“The Chelsea Tech Changemakers has taught me how to behave in a more professional atmosphere,” said Basar.
King was one of the Changemakers flown out by Microsoft to both Washington, D.C. and Seattle for brainstorming sessions.
“4-H Tech Changemakers is a place of innovation,” said King. “That’s what I really enjoy about it. It’s a place where bright minds are given the resources to make a change in Washtenaw County. The club has helped me address a lot of personal issues and has helped me broaden them to a more public stage to help others who may deal with similar problems.”
“The overarching idea is that technology is not going away so the next generation of users are the ones who can create solutions and tools to help tech use be a positive experience for most, and this can only be done by having teens at the table in a meaningful way as society figures out the next best steps in addressing our local issues, as well as the related global issues,” said Montoye.
Members of the Chelsea Tech Changemakers presented some of their work to Chelsea City Council at its Dec. 17, 2018 meeting.