During her freshman year, Zena Stephens ’13 passed by a rehab center here in Atlanta and realized she had decision to make: she could shake her head and keep walking or do something.
She chose the latter and, along with a friend, started Generation Outreach (or Team G.O.) a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the lives of underprivileged individuals in the community. Team G.O., which finances its efforts through fundraisers and community events, consists of youth volunteers all under the age of 25.
Based in Zena’s hometown of Miami, Florida, Team G.O.’s efforts are already visible in Orlando, Miami, and Atlanta in less than a year of operation. Team G.O. works with local organizations to identify social issues in the community and how to solve them. “[We] can no longer just see underprivileged individuals and just give them money or things of that nature, ” Zena explained, “[we] need to take a more hands on approach.” And hands-on, she did.
One of Team G.O.’s first projects was “When I Grow Up,” a program designed to provide school uniforms and supplies to select elementary school students in the Miami-Dade school district, who could not afford them. To fund these efforts, Zena and Team G.O. produced a community talent showcase to raise awareness and funds. But despite their best intentions, Team G.O. wasn’t always received well.
“Lots of individuals were skeptical of us because they were used to groups promising a lot and not following through on their word,” recalls Zena, who was at first disappointed from the response from one child’s parent. “It was not until we gave her [child] a labeled backpack, overflowing with school supplies that we saw her face light up …After we completed our first project and lived up to our word, people became a lot more interested in us and willing to cooperate with us.”
With Team G.O. now established in Miami, Zena is working to expand the organization in Atlanta, with their first projects aiming to benefit the East Point neighborhood. Follow Me: Play. Learn. Succeed. is the newest program in the works, one that partners Oglethorpe student-athletes with 60 area middle and high-school aged athletes, in an effort to guide and mentor the youth toward academic success.
“Many of these kids have athletic skills and they want to market them to colleges,” explains Zena. “But we want them to do well not only in their sport, but to challenge themselves academically… With the help of our cheerleaders, basketball players, and dance teams these kids can see that it is more important to be successful in the classroom because then you have more options. Oglethorpe, for example, is a Division III school. You cannot get in on sports alone…We want these kids to be well-developed in all areas.”
To learn more about Team G.O. and how you can help, visit www.teamgo10.org or join their Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Team-GO-Generation-Outreach/ You can also follow them on Twitter @TeamGO10.