During the past few months Growing Power Chicago has focused primarily on youth programming, as well as prepping the farm for the growing season. Our Spring After School Matters Program ended on May 22nd, making way for our Summer After School Matters program to begin on Monday, June 23. After School Matters (ASM) is s a non-profit organization that offers Chicago high school teens innovative out-of-school activities through Science, Sports, Tech, Words and the nationally recognized Gallery programs. Growing Power has partnered with ASM for a number of years, providing Chicago teens with skills in sustainable urban agriculture and local community food system development. Aside from learning hands-on concrete skills such as planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, compost production, sales, and marketing; youth are also immersed in life skills training in the form of work ethic and appropriate work place socialization.
During our Spring ASM program we had 19 teens from Altgeld Gardens and Carver High School participating, working 16 hours a week, for 6 weeks. For our Summer ASM program, teens will work a total of 96 program hours over a 6 week period at the Altgeld Garden Community Farm and Carver Military High School. We have 18 students currently enrolled and on track to successfully complete all 6 weeks of our Summer ASM program. This partnership has provided us with a great opportunity to offer programming for teens 14-15 who are not yet eligible for Chicago’s Summer Youth Employment Program. During both the Spring and Summer ASM programs teens receive a stipend upon completion of the 6 week period.
The Altgeld Garden Community Farm empowers neighborhood youth and residents to have increased economic opportunities through access to organic produce, food system development, nutritional education, and work-force training. One of our primary objectives is teaching teens about food production and food security through hands on work at the farm. Teens grow organic vegetables, herbs and flowers and participate in all phases of production (watering, weeding, harvesting, marketing, composting, etc.). This summer all teens will have hand-on learning and practical experience with the composting process. They will also help tremendously with infrastructure development. Teens will help to build compost beds on the remaining 2 acres of farm and also do general site beautification. This summer, teens will also have the opportunity to gain basic carpentry skills through the construction of hoop houses onsite.
A critical component to our program curriculum objectives is food system literacy and community engagement and awareness. Teens complete several activities to better understand the complexities of our modern food system, and to identify opportunities to create a more food secure community in Altgeld Gardens. Through our program, teens gain a better understanding of food systems and all the players involved in bringing food to our plates every day. Once that foundation is built, we then dig deeper and explore food security and ultimately food justice. Teens also participate in weekly culinary workshops during which they prepare food from the garden.
Our ASM programming also assists teens in refining their college and career readiness skills. We hold workshops during the course of the program that focus primarily on interviewing, resume building and personal marketing. During “Interviewing 101” teens use mock interviews to better prepare for the interview process. They participate in mock interviews to apply for their dream job/college and provide peer-to-peer evaluation and feedback on their performance. Our Resume Building Workshop assists teens in the importance of developing a thoughtful resume and identifying their skills, education and experience relative to their college and career goals. They also work on making a first good impression to potential employers by developing a two minute pitch to best introduce themselves and highlight their skills and abilities. In addition to the workshops, we do several theater and role-playing activities to prepare for future jobs. Teens explore topics such as conflict resolution, accountability and appropriate workplace socialization. Teens also complete several journaling activities that provided a space for self-reflection and goal setting.
We have very high-expectations for each of the teens that participate in our programming. By maintaining high expectations and consistent boundaries with our teens, we ensure that we meet several of our career readiness objectives such as: emphasizing the importance of timeliness, work ethic and character, problem solving on the job and interpersonal communication amongst co-workers and supervisors.