When 4-H youth take on a challenge, they engage head, heart, hands, and health. So it was with three teens from Tennessee, who spoke to about 15,000 GIS users at the 2017 Esri User Conference. Austin Ramsey (recent high school grad), Elizabeth Sutphin (rising senior), and Amanda Huggins (rising junior), collaborating with other 4-H youth from California, New York, and North Carolina, tackled a big issue during the 2016-17 school year.
They chose health as a year-long topic, focusing on obesity across the US. They followed the "geographic method" step by step: they asked a significant geographic question, gathered data, explored it, analyzed it, and acted on it. Awash in variables from countyhealthrankings.org, they chose four and examined the relationship of each to obesity. Their initial work was in ArcMap, but in prep for the stage, the Tennessee trio stepped up into ArcGIS Pro. The powerful statistical analyses available in Pro added important clarity.
An appearance by Roxana Ayala reinforced that youth who build GIS skills have worlds of opportunity. In 2013, Ayala presented on stage as part of a ground-breaking high school team. Now a rising college senior, she is putting her GIS skills to work in a summer internship that combines her two majors of environmental science and urban planning. Learning GIS in school changed her trajectory, and she, in turn, is focusing on changing it for others.
Young people with passion, commitment, and the chance to use GIS can make a big difference, in a short time and for years to come. Engaging The Science of Where, these youth embody the 4-H pledge, building a better future for themselves, their community, their country, and the world.
Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager