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Infusion: Engaging youth in social justice issues

November 16, 2011

By Robert Gelchion

After 25 years as the head of the Chattahoochee Valley Episcopal Ministry (CVEM), a Jubilee Ministry in Columbus, Ga., Vicky Partin was searching for a new “wavelength” to challenge the next generation to meet the future.

Her answer was Infusion, a program designed to create that vibration among the high school youth around Columbus. Founded in 2006, its purpose is to recruit, mentor and shape community leaders.

Partin and three members of The Infusion Youth Leadership Program – Abby Brown, Olivia Cohen and Will Hutwagner – led a workshop on “Engaging Youth in Social Justice Issues” at Everyone Everywhere 2011. Click here for a printable version of their powerpoint.

“I was concerned about who the future leaders of outreach programs would be,” Partin said. “I wanted to lift up the young leaders of tomorrow.”

The program welcomes 15 students a year and lasts for nine months.  “We recruit students in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades,” Partin said. “We have Jews, Muslims and Christians of different denominations.”

When they complete the program, there is no graduation ceremony, but a celebration that focuses on fellowship. “It’s more like a family celebration,” Partin said.

Students bore in on certain issues. One of the biggest these days is environmental justice, Partin said. “We use the theme in our literacy tutoring program. The program, BEALLWOOD READS, is a literacy program for children K-3 in low wealth neighborhoods.”

Using literacy programs combined with social issues is Infusion’s way of doing things, it appears. Also, programs come from the bottom up.

Vicky Partin

Harvesting for Hope is an initiative founded by two brothers. The garden is tended by Infusion students and promotes learning about topics such as urban agriculture and sustainability. And then the produce from the garden goes to the Beallwood neighborhood.

As part of their training, students must submit written proposals, which are implemented upon approval. Infusion helps students meet their community service obligations and does not charge them to be a member.

Applicants must provide written references and also have a personal interview before selection. Partin said many who are not accepted initially reapply. Students chosen have to commit to 10 hours a month, participate in a weekend retreat and go on a mission trip to serve the needy.

Infusion is part of the larger CVEM ministry, which Partin founded in 1980.   Other ministry programs include: Brown Bag of Columbus (GA), which provides extra food to needy communities; Conversation Café, which helps empower women and guides them toward self-sufficiency.

Partin’s roots in founding CVEM go back to a spiritual call she said she received. “A friend in my group said I was being called.”

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