The Jeter's Leaders are a select group of high school students from Greater Kalamazoo and New York City who are committed to leading a healthy lifestyle. The Leaders are ambassadors to Derek and carry out the Turn 2 Foundation's mission of supporting and promoting healthy lifestyles for today's youth. Members are dedicated to staying drug and alcohol free. They participate in community events, attain high academic marks and are devoted to setting examples for younger students. Over the past year, Kalamazoo Jeter's Leader Terryn Valikodath has taken leadership to the next level. This dynamic student has stood out in his school, community and to members of the Jeter's Leaders program by going above and beyond what is asked of him and by simply doing the right thing. We would like to share Terryn's accomplishments and thank him for the hard work and dedication he's shown Turn 2, his peers, and the young children who look up to him as a role model each day.
When asked how he feels he represents the Foundation's mission, Terryn responded, "I think I represent Turn 2 by delivering positive messages through mentoring and leading by example. Also, I'm Indian and being from a different background than many of my peers gives me the opportunity to represent myself, my family and my culture while making a difference."
Terryn's cousin Anilash Panikulangara was his influence for joining the Jeter's Leaders program. "Anilash emphasized the importance of being involved and encouraged me to apply to the program. I wasn't very involved in extracurricular activities in middle school so this was my chance to change that." Anilash graduated from the program in 2008 and is now a student at the University of Michigan.
As a high school student, Terryn believes that the program has allowed him to develop a strong voice among his peers. "In school, I've become more of a leader in class and group discussions. I feel like I can be the leader of the group from my experiences in the program. I used to be quiet, but as I progressed, I became more vocal by talking more in meetings, and I became friends with more people by being more social. Also, in sports I'm seen as the leader of the team, even if I'm not always the best player on the team. I'm more vocal on the court now, and I'm someone my teammates can look up to."
Terryn plans to get his bachelor and Master's degrees in forensic science. "I want to be a forensic detective and just live a good life overall."
Terryn feels that the program has given him the opportunity to see out his career goals and personal growth. "I want to thank the program because it's helped me a lot. I feel like I wouldn't be anywhere close to where I am as a person today without the help from my peers and the program staff."
The Alumni members helped Loaves and Fishes prepare more than 1,000 bags of food for another local organization, Project Connect. Project Connect helps Kalamazoo's homeless with winter essentials like coats and hats, as well as meal assistance, dental and health care screenings, resume building and everyday needs including free haircuts.
The Alumni arrived at Loaves and Fishes ready to get to work. The volunteers split into four groups with each being responsible for making 250 bags of food. Each bag contained cereal bars, tuna, milk, cereal, juice boxes, a can of vegetables, a can of fruit and information about Loaves and Fishes. The project was a fun and very rewarding experience for the Alumni. They were able to make a difference in their community while reconnecting with some old friends.
After finishing at Loaves and Fishes, the Alumni enjoyed a group dinner. They reminisced about their fondest memories in the program and shared the things that have been happening in their lives since graduating. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, the group expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to spend time with each other and help those in their community.
On October 4, the Leaders started the project by discussing different aspects of nutrition with a dietician from Women Infants Children (WIC). Also in attendance were Kalamazoo College's athletic trainer and two Kalamazoo College athletes. The representative from WIC showed the Leaders how to read a nutrition label and explained the significance of exercise. She also stated how simple things like sunshine, deep breaths, rest and refraining from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, are ways to maintain a low stress level, which is required for good physical and mental health.
The athletic trainer gave a presentation about how good nutrition is not just important for athletes, but for everyone. She also explained that no two people are the same and that individuals need to find their own healthy diet.
The highlight of the meeting was when the two athletes from Kalamazoo College spoke to the Leaders. The first athlete, a member of the Kalamazoo College football team, reiterated that everyone's diet should be tailored to his or her own lifestyle and physical makeup. He also explained that nutrition should be a part of more people's daily routine. The second athlete, a female soccer player, told the Leaders that the more active one becomes, the more in tune that person should be with their body. She also explained that a person's diet affects concentration and energy levels, two aspects that are very important for high school and college students.
At the end of the meeting, the Jeter's Leaders staff explained the upcoming Nutrition Challenge. The Leaders were split into six groups and each was given the task of putting together a menu for the most nutritious meal. The only rule was that the meal had to consist of an appetizer, entrée and a dessert. The Jeter's Leaders staff would serve as the judges and the winners would have their meal prepared by Chef Shane Sheldon of Bold Restaurant. The entire group would enjoy the winning meal at their meeting on November 15.
The challenge began with a nutrition scavenger hunt. On October 11, the Leaders traveled to the local Meijer grocery store to explore healthy foods options. Each group took notes on the amount of calories, grams of sugar, fat content, sodium and the percent of each vitamin in foods they thought would be best for their meals. After an hour of looking through the store, the groups finalized their meal choices and were ready to start putting their recipes together. "I feel the nutrition scavenger hunt was very helpful in creating a meal. It also gave me a chance to discover foods that I normally don't see," added Jared.
As promised, Chef Sheldon prepared the winning meal for the Jeter's Leaders to enjoy at their November meeting. During the festivities, freshman Leader Alexis talked about the challenge. "In my opinion, our nutrition challenge has helped me a lot and is a good influence on others. We had to take our own ideas and come up with a dish that we thought was healthy. That really made me think about all of the unhealthy things I was eating and I really wanted to start changing that by trying new things."
As each program arrived by bus, the children were welcomed by the cheerful Nottawa staff. To get the day started, the participants were split into groups and assigned a Jeter's Leader to guide them through the day's activities. The first activity was a non-traditional game of musical chairs, or "musical characters". The farm had made cut-outs of Disney characters' bodies such as Snow White, Daffy Duck and Mickey Mouse, that were set up in a large circle. Unlike the uneven number of chairs to children in musical chairs, the amount of characters determined the number of children that could play. Once ready, the staff played music and asked the children to run around the large circle of characters. When the staff stopped the music, the children were to run to the nearest character. Then a staff member would spin an arrow on a large wheel with all the character's names on it. The character that the arrow landed on was deemed the winner! The game put a great twist on an old favorite and was a good way to get the children laughing and having a good time.
Next, the children paired up and climbed on a big, wooden wheel. They had to work together to push the wheel forward by walking inside of it and balancing themselves. The students had a great time moving the wheel around. Afterward, the groups were taken through a massive corn maze, which unbeknown to them, led the group to their next activity -- a wagon ride! All of the participants and Jeter's Leaders made their way onto the wagon and were given a tour of the entire farm. They were able to see some of the animals they had spent time with earlier, and saw more of what the farm had to offer. At the end of the wagon ride, each child was able to pick a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch as a gift to take home.
Everyone agreed that the event was a great way to kick off the 2010-11 mentoring program and that the games and activities helped the mentors and mentees to get to know each other better. On their way back to the bus, the children said goodbye to the Jeter's Leaders and told them that they were excited for the first mentoring activity and couldn't wait to see them again!
The Kalamazoo Jeter's Leaders took part in a college fair hosted by Colleges That Change Lives, Inc. (CTCL), a nonprofit organization committed to the support and advancement of high school students during the college search process. The event was hosted in Oak Brook, Illinois, on Sept., 12, 2010.
Commonly, high school students do not spend a lot of time thinking about college until their junior or senior years. This oftentimes leaves students scrambling to get accepted into a school, while trying to apply for financial aid and various scholarships. Finding the "right school" sometimes gets lost in the process and just trying to find "a school" becomes more important. Since college preparation is a major focus in the Jeter's Leaders program, members from all grade levels, including freshmen and sophomores, attend college exploration activities, like the CTCL Fair, to avoid getting behind. The program and the Leaders strongly believe that it's never too soon to start preparing for all aspects of college and feel that finding the right college is one of the most imperative tasks.
The CTCL Fair helps do just that. The event aims to acknowledge smaller colleges and universities that may not get as much attention as popular schools but could give students the most successful college experience. Representatives help students familiarize themselves with smaller schools and challenge them to look at popular college rankings as just one way to measure the quality of a school. They strive to help students make well-informed decisions.
At the fair, the Leaders were attentive and took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the college selection process. They learned that CTCL schools promote a family atmosphere; something that may be hard to experience on a larger campus. While the schools tend to be smaller, the fair helps students see that these schools still offer many of the same experiences as larger schools, both in and out of the classroom.
Some of the colleges highlighted at the event included Beloit College, Lynchburg College, New College of Florida, Ohio Wesleyan University, Clark University, and even Hope College and Kalamazoo College located close to home in Michigan. They learned that most of these schools focus on liberal arts and receive high honors for their curriculum. The Leaders also found out that most of the schools are known for the low student to faculty ratio, which is something many of the Leaders are interested in.
The fair gave the Leaders a new way to explore colleges that they may not have otherwise heard about. Besides being introduced to new schools, the group also picked up some very useful tips about how to fill out college applications and what to ask about when visiting the colleges. The Leaders learned a lot from the Colleges That Change Lives Fair and are very thankful to have had the opportunity to participate in the event.
On Aug. 28, 2010, the Jeter's Leaders and the Jeter's Leaders Alumni enjoyed a picnic together at Markin Glen Park in Kalamazoo. Events such as these are held throughout the year to bring current and past Jeter's Leaders together in a fun way, while giving them opportunities to share their experiences and plan for community events.
After graduating from the program, the alumni strive to stay committed to the mission of the Jeter's Leaders by continuously developing their leadership skills and participating in social change activities. They work together as often as they can to carry on their commitment to the community, younger students and each other. Events such as the picnic allow them to share their new lives and career skills with the younger Jeter's Leaders. During the picnic, the alumni were also able to start planning for a volunteer activity that would take place closer to Thanksgiving at Kalamazoo's Loaves & Fishes food bank.
Opportunities such as the picnic also enable the alumni to mentor the Jeter's Leaders who aspire to be successful in college and their careers. After enjoying a casual lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs, everyone participated in volleyball, kickball and soccer games. The games served as icebreakers so that the newly-inducted members and alumni had a fun way to get to know each other.
"The best thing we got from the picnic was the chance to bond with each other," said Antonyo, a second-year Jeter's Leaders member. Antonyo, as well as the other current Leaders, used the time together to ask a lot of questions about college and gain insight about careers that some of the alumni members are working in.
Everyone felt that the picnic was a great way to get together and enjoy a nice Saturday afternoon. Although the Alumni will team up again during the Thanksgiving holiday, everyone is looking forward to the next joint event in December at the Holiday Express where they will all be spreading holiday cheer and handing out gifts to more than 200 of Turn 2's after-school participants in Kalamazoo!
Before getting to work, the Leaders were able to kick back and have some fun with many activities that the Sherman Lake YMCA offered. This was a perfect opportunity for the all of the Leaders to learn more about each other. The Leaders' physical and mental skills were tested through a number of teambuilding exercises. The games and activities focused on communication, hard work, and of course, leadership. The group quickly learned how to trust one another and work together to reach their goal.
After spending time getting to know each other, the Leaders were ready to get down to business. Another major task of the trip is to brainstorm and plan events and activities that will take place throughout the year. Each Leader, current and new, was able to give their input of what they wanted to accomplish. With so many good ideas for service projects, mentoring and the 2011 Jeter's Leaders Leadership Conference, the Leaders were able to put together a schedule of activities much faster than they had done in the past. The entire group worked together and planned one of the most anticipated program years yet!
"I really feel like I got to know the new Jeter's Leaders," said third-year Leader J'Nairo. "This year's retreat was the best that I have been to. Planning events for the upcoming Jeter's Leaders program year was a breeze. Everyone who had an opinion about a subject had a chance to voice their opinion. A lot of work was done by the Jeter's Leaders picking new topics for the upcoming 2011 Leadership Conference."
After two full days together, the Leaders were proud of the work they had accomplished and the new friendships they had began to make. Each Leader made a comment about how excited they were for the year. The entire group is looking forward to all of the great community projects, mentoring and various activities and events they plan to attend and host during the next year!
The baseball clinic culminates with a banquet in celebration of the participants. This year's banquet was hosted at the Douglass Community Association on Saturday, Aug. 14. The Leaders were instrumental in helping prepare for the celebration. As the children were finishing their last day of baseball instruction at Mayor's Riverfront Park, the Leaders were already working to set up tables and chairs for all of the participants and their families. They also helped put together the head table, which would display all of the gift bags and certificates for the participants and coaches. Many of the Leaders even went the extra mile to help the food vendors get ready!
The Leaders were very helpful, escorting guests to their seats, serving food and helping distribute gifts and certificates. Seeing the high school students in their jerseys helping with the event, the younger children were curious about the Jeter's Leaders and what else they did for the program and community. The Leaders answered many questions about how they stay drug and alcohol free, maintain high academic marks and promote social change. They also explained that they try their best to serve as role models to younger students by participating in community events like the clinic banquet. The conversations inspired many of the young students to become more involved with their community and even encouraged many of them to look more into becoming a future Jeter's Leader.
Since its launch in 1996, the Turn 2 Foundation has awarded more than $19 million in grants.
Social Change Project
The Project is an event created to share one of the Foundation's principles with communities.
Turn 2 Foundation Dinner
The 18th Annual Turn 2 Foundation Dinner raised more than $1 million for youth initiatives.