A global pandemic didn’t stop a group of Grand Strand professionals from giving back and inspiring youth this year.
The Grand Strand ChangeMakers, a class of nine Myrtle Beach area professionals, is a program of Multiplying Good, formerly the Jefferson Awards Foundation. The program highlights leadership and service, with class members partnering with area students through Students In Action.
The Changemakers program launched in South Carolina in 2018, beginning with a class in the upstate. The Grand Strand program launched at the beginning of 2020.
“The board saw that there was a lot of talent in this area, and there’s so much going on here,” said Heather Love, executive director of Multiplying Good in South Carolina.
Stephanie Bohardt, one of the 2020 ChangeMakers, said she was drawn to the mentorship aspect of the program.
“I’ve always liked to work with youth in our area,” she said. “I wanted to instill a passion for helping your own community and help give them a big head start for college. We are able to demonstrate to young people how to continue on the path of servant leadership.”
ChangeMaker Bobbei Ruswinckel saw ChangeMakers as an opportunity to “build new relationships with a different sphere of people” and “make a positive impact in the community.”
The group was able to host four of its five planned events before COVID-19 halted in-person events and meetings. The group served as guest bartenders at Dagwood’s Deli in Surfside Beach for a fundraiser in February. They also traveled to Francis Marion University for a winter leadership conference with youth from all over the Grand Strand and Pee Dee.
Last school year, Students In Action teams participated from North Myrtle Beach High School, Conway High School, The Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology, and Scholars Academy. Multiplying Good plans to recruit teams at Saint James High School, Loris High School and Green Sea Floyds High School in the future, among others.
ChangeMakers was originally supposed to wrap up in the spring, but the second half of the program was postponed to fall 2020 when circumstances did not improve.
“ChangeMakers 2.0,” as Love dubbed it, involved some creative thinking.
Since schools are not allowing outside visitors inside, the ChangeMakers are offering virtual events and coaching this fall. The class hosted a virtual auction fundraiser in September, a virtual pep rally to cheer on the student teams virtually representing South Carolina at the National Jefferson Awards, and a drive-in finale program to celebrate their graduation in a socially distanced fashion.
Grand Strand Multiplying Good board chair Jeffrey Wisniewski praised the current class for their commitment to the program through the challenging times.
“We got nine superstars to join right off the bat,” he said. “It’s been exciting to get this off the ground. It’s been a great group to have kick off the program, and I know they will serve as ambassadors for us going forward.”
Multiplying Good plans to launch a second class of ChangeMakers in 2021, with more details to come towards the end of 2020. For more information on Multiplying Good and the ChangeMakers program, visit www.southcarolina.multiplyinggood.org.