Georgia First Lady Visits Cook County to Explore Local Youth Programs

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Sandra Deal and Cook Collaborative
From left: Rick Ratliff, Jennifer Lovett, Natalie Singletary of Cook County Family Connection, Kolby Lawrence and Eric Allen of Cook High School, Katie Jo Ballard of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, Brandon Holt of Ministry Through Meals, Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal, Future Farmers of America Club Officer Ashton Lovett, Boys & Girls Club Teen Leaders Kimbrasha Morris and Tyler Siska, Cook County Family Connection Executive Director Zoe Myers, Boys & Girls Club Teen Leader Tamya Morris, and Kim Flythe, Steve Meders, and Butch Fausett of of Cook County Family Connection
Sandra Deal and gets a hug from a male student
Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal gets a hug from Boys & Girls Club Teen Leader Tyler Siska.

For many Georgians August marks both an end to the carefree days of summer and the beginning of another school year. Cook County Family Connection may not have taken a break from making a difference in the community, but summer was still a blast there—especially for the children and families they serve.

The Georgia Family Connection collaborative organization supported youth during the summer by providing relocated staff, volunteers, resources, and funding for the local Teen Center at the local Boys & Girls Club.

“This program provided prevention education, leadership skills, and enrichment programs five days a week for up to 30 teens during the summer break,” said Zoe Myers, executive director of Cook County Family Connection. “But that’s not all. We provided support for 15 local Future Farmers of America (FFA) students to participate in a three-day statewide leadership training conference, and we organized and sponsored a one-week summer recreation program for 75 local youth, which included sports and exercise programs, character development sessions, and prevention education.”

The Cook County collaborative organization’s obligation to its community is no doubt contributing to decreased rates in teen pregnancy, child abuse, STDs, and alcohol and drug use.

The results of community collaboration there have even captured the attention of Sandra Deal, Georgia’s first lady, who visited Cook County in June to learn firsthand about its community-based youth programs.

Sandra Deal and Zoe Myers
Cook County Family Connection Executive Director Zoe Myers and Sandra Deal

During her visit, Deal reviewed collaborative programs and accomplishments, and had an opportunity to spend time talking with several teen leaders who are actively involved in various projects.

“These youth were so excited to have a conversation with the first lady and to share their perspectives on the importance of youth leadership, volunteer service, and collaborative participation,” said Myers. “We were honored to have Mrs. Deal spend some time with us. She was gracious and had something inspirational to share with each of our teen leaders individually. She talked with them about their aspirations for the future and offered them encouragement and support. We were all impressed by her sincere passion for volunteer service and community-based work.”

Myers said she and her 42 local partners will continue to provide education, training, and preventive services to reduce substance abuse among youth, and to create changes in the local community that will decrease the likelihood of substance abuse among their youth. They also are taking on childhood obesity by leading the way for policy and environmental changes that will give families in Cook County access to healthier foods and opportunities for more physical activity.

“We are especially pleased to see rates decreasing in teen pregnancy, child abuse, STDs, and alcohol and drug use,” said Myers. “Hopefully our 2012 data will continue to see these trend lines fall.”

Learn more about Cook County Family Connection.

Bill Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director
404-527-7394 (x114)

Follow us on Twitter: @gafcpnews

Zoe Myers
Cook County Family Connection Executive Director