{HARRISBURG} — The Harrisburg Housing Authority’s Summer Growth program, a great summer program possible for local youth to participate in, will happen once again this July thanks to funding from Mayor Williams’ administration.

As has become tradition in recent years, the City of Harrisburg is moving $200,000 out of its Host Fund and giving it to the HHA. The Housing Authority will fund $100,000 for the cost of the program. Money will go towards providing stipends to Harrisburg teens, who will engage in community service activities designed to clean city streets, learn about environmental issues, and better themselves.

The program, affectionately referred to as the Environmental Teen Corps or ETC, is entering its ninth year, after missing a summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The program was designed to strike multiple chords all at the same time,” according to last summer’s post-program report. “We are building in our teens higher expectations for themselves; get them to understand the significance of environmental issues within their community and abroad; have them embrace the importance of responsibility and accountability; show them how to achieve through action, etc…”

The ETC has grown from 25 teens in 2014 to 100 last year. It is a six-week program, and teens are split into 14 teams led by mentors. Out of the 14 mentors in last year’s program, 10 were teens who had graduated from the program prior. Mentors have various backgrounds, including ETC graduates, college students, college graduates, teachers, and community leaders.

The program gives application preference to kids who live in Harrisburg’s low income housing neighborhoods.

Led by Clarence Watson, the Environmental Teen Corps focuses on creating a work environment focused on improving an individual’s healthy lifestyle:

  • Social Health – We are social beings, and the Summer Growth Program provided the perfect opportunity for our teens to meet new friends from different areas of town, to work with mentors and new team members, and to learn how to bond and create synergy within their team.
  • Spiritual Health – Once a week, the teens took a three mile nature walk at Wildwood Park behind HACC. Most people miss work because of some type of health reason, so the nature walk was designed to help the teens renew themselves. Also, the teens engaged in meditative coloring, which taught them how to be patient and thorough.
  • Physical Health – The teens learned how to work from the neck up and the neck down. From picking up trash to gardening, the teens understood that their job enhanced their physically healthy. The teens didn’t realize that they walk between 1-3 miles while picking up trash.
  • Intellectual Health – Along with teaching the 7 Habits, we had a lunch time chess club where some of the teens would engage in the game of chess during their learning lunch period. We would also encourage teens to write journals in order to learn or develop how to express their thoughts.
  • Emotional Health – We stressed emotional intelligence on a daily basis. The lagging indicator of being emotionally intelligent is the display of good character and behavior; which is the primary reason for the continued success of our program.
  • Financial Health – Providing a stipend for a summer of hard work, we taught the teens how to manage and handle their money through our financial literacy program. We taught our teens about how money works, how to save and how to spend properly.

Harrisburg City Council approved the budget transfer of funds at a special legislative session on June 18.