KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- With a high poverty rate, low median household income and a poor high school graduate rate, Wyandotte County has the unfortunate distinction of being ranked as having the least healthy people in the metro area and Kansas. This week's FOX 4 Young Achievers have initiated a project to help Wyandotte County residents get healthier and to unite their school and surrounding community as it happens.
Like a lot of other things in the metro area, a large tract of empty land adjacent to J.C. Harmon High School was completely covered by snow just a few days ago. But eventually all the snow will disappear and some Harmon students have grand plans that by the end of the semester the land no longer will be empty.
"We want to increase fitness and overall health in our school and just the look, to beautify the campus," said senior D-Angelo Hicks.
If all goes well, the Harmon Hub fitness trail will wind its way around and into the undeveloped ground adjacent to the high school building. With many other features and amenities in future phases, Harmon Hub is envisioned to become a catalyst for students to battle obesity and other health and wellness and education issues and for people in the community around the school to use, as well.
"And we're just trying to get the community out here and feel safe and they're willing to exercise and just trying to get the community to be involved with our school," said senior Ahmedin Issak.
Harmon students aren't just passive players in all this. Some seniors and juniors initiated the project and are driving it along as members of a metro-wide youth organization called 20/20 Leadership in which they have to address significant challenges in their schools and communities.
"20/20 and my parents and people around me always instilled values in me," said D'Angelo. "And one of those values is to give back and to leave a legacy."
A core group of students has been meeting with architects, engineers and construction contractors along with school district and other government leaders and health experts to get the Harmon Hub project underway.
"The feedback has been very positive for everybody," said Rick Malone, a Harmon teacher and sports coach who is school advisor for the 20/20 students. "Every adult they've engaged into is really impressed by the amount they've done. I think it shows the leaders these are the leaders of tomorrow."
With an eye-popping budget of more than a half-million dollars, Harmon Hub is no small feel-good student project of little or no real consequence. And about a tenth of that already has been raised in grant money to get a good start on phase one.
"It's really exciting," said Ahmedin. "I mean, 10 years down the road or whatever, I can tell my kids, 'Hey, we did that!' And it's really exciting. I can't wait to get this done."
And for important healthy change to start getting done, too.
The Harmon Hub team has requests in to four foundations for significant funding that would cover a large share of the remaining cost of getting the entire project done. They'll hear about those grant requests next month. Meantime, 20/20 Leadership works with a number of metro area schools to develop leaders for a lifetime like those driving the Harmon Hub project. You can connect with 20/20 Leadership and get involved in that effort. Go to http://2020leadership.org/.
FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.