District’s Artist/Educator in Residence Charles Payne connects local youth with water issues
Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District and PATCH (Providers and Teens Communicating for Health) have partnered to promote water stewardship among teens. This summer, the two organizations teamed up to provide opportunities for nontraditional experiential learning on water stewardship.
“We aim to create community advocates that interface with the District’s wealth of knowledge and educational resources,” says Charles Payne, Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District’s second educator/artist in residence.
Payne is a self-taught social artist who uses his creative skills to spark change. Through PATCH, Payne worked with a group of youth to deliver his water advocacy curriculum, the Water Advocate Growth & Learning Series, which allowed them to take ownership of water issues vital to them and encourage their participation in water advocacy events. The series educates youth in the community on the “One Water” concept, which reflects that all the water we have is finite — we can’t create more — and must work to respect every drop.
“Much of the wastewater process is unseen and often taken for granted,” says Michael Mucha, Chief Engineer and Director of the District. “Working with youth to promote water stewardship and build their knowledge of the importance of respecting all water is an amazing opportunity, and we appreciate Charles’ work to connect the District and the larger community.”
Participants grew advocacy and professional skills throughout the program while learning about current water issues. They practiced assessing their community’s needs, conducting research on a focused water-related topic, meeting with water professionals, holding leaders accountable, developing their advocacy plans and sharing their findings. Participants looked at topics ranging from agricultural policies and understanding water safety to environmental justice and reentry programs for formerly incarcerated individuals to join the water workforce.
“We can’t create more water; what we have is all we’ll ever have,” says Catherine Harris, a pollution prevention specialist with the District who manages the residency program. “By changing how we think about and use this critical resource, we can improve the quality of life for us all. The task of [Payne’s] residency is to share the message far and wide and strengthen community water connections.”
This was the first cohort of youth to go through the full Water Advocate Growth & Learning Series, and the District looks forward to working with subsequent groups through the remainder of Payne’s residency. The next public event for the residency is a story slam around the theme “By the Water.” The event is Saturday, Oct. 21, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Wilmar Neighborhood Center and is hosted in partnership with Mad City Story Slam.
About PATCH: The PATCH Program is an innovative, youth-driven program working to improve adolescents’ health and well-being across the nation. Wisconsin PATCH is made up of a collaboration of PATCH Sites from across the state and is part of the larger PATCH vision. They work in communities across Wisconsin to educate, engage, and empower young people to take control of their own health.
PATCH believes that health care practices, programs, and policies should be developed with young people rather than just for them. Online: patchprogram.org