Six Cobb County School District Students Among Team Presenting Ideas to Improve Metro Atlanta

Among the people sitting in a boardroom in late February at the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) were six Cobb County School District high school students looking for solutions to Atlanta’s problems.  Tasked with presenting their innovative ideas for making metro Atlanta a more dynamic place to live and work, students worked on committees to tackle issues from transportation, transit and community planning to human services, public art, and natural resource sustainability.

These six students were part of a team of 48 teens from a ten-county metro Atlanta region chosen to participate in the 2017-2018 Model Atlanta Regional Commission (MARC) youth leadership program.

Now in its twenty-first year, the MARC program aims to engage high school participants in thoughtful conversations with community leaders and ARC experts while taking part in applied learning through field trips and visits to various community partners throughout the region.

Organized into committees mirroring the ARC board, MARC participants practice effective leadership, communication, and collaboration skills by working with their committee members to develop workable concepts to solve regional issues and challenges.  It is a six-month commitment of study, debate, and hands-on activities for these student leaders.

“I am so impressed with the hard work and thoughtful resolutions put forth by these young leaders,” said Kerry Armstrong, ARC board chair. “It’s evident that these students have a passion for finding new and creative ways to improve our region.  The ARC board committees will now review each resolution, looking for ways to advance their ideas.”

“I learned so much about the city of Atlanta, transportation-wise, and what the city needs,” said Harrison High School sophomore Audrey McNeal.  “I really understand not just the problems, but what we need to fix going forward.  I got a lot of education out of this experience.”

The Cobb County participants were:

  • Samantha Ficarro, a sophomore at Campbell High School
  • Audrey McNeal, a sophomore at Harrison High School
  • Morgan Ojemuyiwa, a junior at Hillgrove High School
  • Lauryn Sanders, a sophomore at Campbell High School
  • Gareth Thompson, a junior at Wheeler High School STEM Magnet Program
  • Shaylon Walker, a sophomore at North Cobb High School Magnet Program

These students served on MARC committees that submitted the following resolutions to the ARC board for consideration:

  • ‘Adopt a Grandparent’ program – Encourage strong, multi-generational communities through the pairing of an older adult and high school students, promoting improved emotional and physical health for both parties
  • ‘Blue Light Systems’ – To increase the level of safety and comfort in metro Atlanta by implementing a “Blue Light System” in and around major activity centers, especially near college campuses and areas that might have a history or perception of high crime
  • Promote “learning-gardens” in school – Improve environmental education in local elementary schools by creating gardens at schools that promote awareness of water pollution, air pollution, the use of pesticides, habitat destruction, and other issues
  • ‘The GreenLife Transit App’ – Improve mobility of millennials and younger generations by partnering with MARTA leaders to develop a cell phone application with incentives that will promote the use of public transit, walking, and biking.

The MARC program is accepting applications for next school year’s class through March 16. Learn more at