Becoming a safer, stronger, more engaging community requires the investment, commitment and participation by all of us. No one demographic alone can affect the whole community to the level necessary for a lasting impact on our future.

The age demographics of our county provide us the incredible opportunity to share talent, experience and technique. From seasoned veterans, to those in their prime, to young players fresh from the junior varsity team, each age group offers their own understanding and expertise to the community. The interests of each age demographic vary dramatically, as do needs and priorities. If each group maintains their own interests before the good of the team, we will not experience many future successes. Our county needs all age groups committing to play for our team as a whole. There will be most valuable players, most inspirational players, and most improved players along the way, as each one uses their own skills, personality and talents for the good of the team.

Socio-economic diversity within our county also adds to our strength. Just as a baseball team of all pitchers, or volleyball team of all setters, or a soccer team of all goal keepers would not have successful seasons, a county made up of one socio-economic group would not lead to resilience and success. Our community is filled with people from all walks of life, and there is certainly great strength in diversity. Various backgrounds lead to broader world views, various income levels lead to true value and appreciation, various family dynamics lead to greater community networking, and various occupations lead to improved economics.

As we strive to protect and improve our community, let us also remember to listen to our county’s youth. They are the next generation. If we can increase interest in our community, and provide ways for our youth to become involved and invested now, they will carry our team to future championships. Let us listen to their perspectives and insight, as well as understand what is most important to them regarding the future of our county.

If you live in Highlands County, you are a player on this team. Regardless of demographics. Even if you wish you could stay on the sidelines and cheer, your team needs you to actively participate, train, and compete. This is a team sport and the community is relying on each player to get in the game. Our team is relying on you. There is no “I” in “team,” and there is no “me” in “community.”

Carissa Marine serves as CEO of the Champion for Children Foundation, providing prevention programs and early intervention services to local at-risk children and families in Highlands County since 1994. The office is at 419 E. Center Ave., Sebring, FL 33870. Call the office at 863-382-2905 or learn more at www.ChampionforChildren.org

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