Change the Trajectory of Our Youth

by Hidden Villa
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DCP students visit with Vida the cow
DCP students visit with Vida the cow

The GROW Youth Leadership Program is a partnership Hidden Villa has established with Downtown College Prep (DCP), located in Alum Rock, San Jose where students are 98% Latino and 90% low-income. 41% of parents have less than a high school education and 4% of parents have a college degree, while 95% of DCP students are matriculated in colleges around the country after graduation.

The goal of this partnership with DCP is to get youth out of their everyday life; having new experiences and building intergenerational community in a learning environment that promotes personal agency, social justice and environmental stewardship.

This past year, DCP students joined us at three different points, building team morale on the high and low ropes course, fostering compassion through farm and animal care, and increasing courage and confidence on day and night hikes. “I liked when we had our groups and worked together to feed the chickens and milk the cow.” Another student told us, “After Hidden Villa, I try more new things, even if I’m scared.” It is a success when students take risks, challenge themselves to try new experiences, and work collaboratively to achieve their goals. During the 2015-2016 school year we will continue and grow this program with both a Leadership and a Science overnight retreat.

Offering youth opportunities that buttress their academic knowledge with hands-on life experiences is crucial to their ability to be agents of change in our community. “Hidden Villa gave me the courage to come out of my comfort zone and taught me to try to be a leader. I now feel confident to help people and to encourage them when they aren’t having such a good day.” We are excited to partner with you to create experiences for our local youth that serve them as whole students, preparing them for their future and our shared future as a community.  

Links:

Lessons in our Outdoor Classroom
Lessons in our Outdoor Classroom

Each summer our Youth Development team takes some time to work with youth in our community who are interested in becoming farmers for the season. These youth take on the responsbilities of our farm crew, learning about the stages of vegetable, fruit, and flower production. They learn various techniques of soil augmentation, irrigation, planting, training plant growth, pest management, harvesting and culinary preparations during morning crew work and afternoon experiential workshops. This opportunity is especially valuable as it gives young people the opportunity to learn where their food comes from and builds on the empowerment that comes from raising food, cooking it, and nourishing themselves and the people that they love. 

Some of these young people go on to work in urban or home gardens, some continue on to study earth science or biology in college, and some simply return back to school in the fall with a greater appreciation for food, farmers, farm laborers, and our natural environment. Each of these paths is different, yet important for our future generations to hold on to the knowledge of the richness of our culinary palates. 

Thank you for supporting our work to engage youth in our farm and wilderness space!

Check out this blog with updates from our program last year :https://hvfarmacademy.wordpress.com. There are still spaces availiable in this program and if you would like more information, email apprentice@hiddenvilla.org. 

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Ephraim (Center front) with Youth Development Team
Ephraim (Center front) with Youth Development Team

As a Youth Development intern and a youth worker I often tell the youth and students to 1) have fun 2) have supportive language and actions and 3) try new things as our agreement during their time at Hidden Villa. However, I recently questioned myself, “Have I been trying new things lately? Have I been using supportive language and actions in my life? Most importantly am I having fun?” As I reflect on my mid-year experiences and opportunities of growth here at Hidden Villa, I realize that I have how much I have been trying new things, consciously utilizing supportive language and actions, and undoubtedly having lots of fun.

1) Have Fun. I see myself as a very serious and concentrated hard worker when it comes to scheduling programs and putting together activities and initiatives for the coming youths. I always try sprinkle in some calm and fun when it comes to the projects and programs that come my way. We are definitely serious about the work that we do here in youth development but we cannot always be serious, we always try our best to have fun whether it be a long stressful day or challenging opportunities are ahead of us, we HAVE FUN!

2) Supportive language and actions can get you anywhere and everywhere you go. I became more conscious about my body language and the words I use when I became part of the Hidden Villa Community in June. We support each other, hand-in-hand, in challenging ourselves to develop the kind of community that we want. I definitely did not notice that I have been using supportive language and actions even before I came to Hidden Villa. I just became more aware and deliberate of these things. I believe that I am a better mentor and educator to the youth when I fully embody and engage with these agreements.

3) Trying New Things. Every day I try to step outside my comfort zone to grow and develop new skills as an aspiring educator and individual. I take on projects and programs to be able to fully engage myself in my community and provide my fullest capacity to the youth and students that come to Hidden Villa. Puzzles and problems become great opportunities for us to develop our skills and become autonomous thinkers and moral agents of the society that we live in. As educators, leaders and mentors we propose trying new things to their level of comfortability allowing themselves the opportunity to grow and learn a lot about themselves and their communities. Trying new things is an opportunity for us to understand each other and to become conscious of the impacts we have, big or small in the communities and people that we serve.

Thus, we have fun, enforce positive language and actions, and try new things in proving a supportive, cooperative and reflective environment for the students, youths and adults to be inspired for a just and sustainable future.

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The Chickens are a Hit!
The Chickens are a Hit!

Here in the world of Youth Development a lot of what is happening is in preparation for our upcoming programs. I often find myself learning new curricula activities and team building initiatives. For the most part I create new curricula relative to the different themes that we teach about such as; Farms to Food, Identity, Social Justice and the Environment. I always feel excited when I look at the calendar of events and find programs scheduled the following week

Recently, we hosted a group of students from Sequoia High School in Redwood City who are on the health care track and they had a wonderful time here at Hidden Villa. They got to interact with the different animals in the farm, challenged themselves on the Ropes Course Challenge, and developed their communication, listening and cooperation skills through team building initiatives.

Each student got the chance to interact with the animals on the farm. They tried new things like feeding the chickens, and felt the different textures of animal fur or feathers and bodies. They had to slow down and relax if they wanted to catch a chicken. This level of comfortability allowed them to present the chicken to their peers. Their excitement was contagious as they taught each other how to hold the chicken so that it felt safe and cared for. When I asked their favorite part of the day almost all of them said catching the layer chickens.

The students were really inspired by the connection that they made with the animals, nature and their peers. I think that they left with stronger relationships to each other. They really enjoyed their time here that they asked their teacher when they are coming back to camp. We are looking forward to seeing these students soon to experience camping and exploring more of the wilderness with some fun!

Ephraim is Hidden Villa's Youth Development intern. This past summer he served as a Hidden Villa camp counselor and says that he was impacted by the social and environmental justice concepts that came up in reflections and activities. He's excited to develop his skills as an educator this coming year and explore some of his passions.

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REAL student caring for the chicks
REAL student caring for the chicks

We are often humbled by our experiences here at Hidden Villa as youth workers and are so grateful to be able to share this special place with some many young people in our community.

Our partnership with the Redwood Environmental Academy and Leadership program offers us the chance to connect to youth in their program four times throughout the year, including an overnight experience. One of the participants said, "All my problems disappeared when I was working with the animals they just left me. So, when I left Hidden Villa, I was happy and light. The group exercises were amazing, getting to know the group, plus the opportunity to hike and get some fresh air—amazing." We strive to engage students in experiences that are new, fun, and promote a healthy interaction with nature and each other.

One of the REAL program coordinators explained to us that, “REAL students confront numerous challenges on a daily basis: depression, poverty, violence, death of friends and family, disappointment with academic progress. Opportunities to experience a different reality where they can define themselves as a part of nature are truly uplifting and transformative. The peaceful setting of the ranch, the calming sensation of holding young goats, and the opportunity to explore new parts of themselves is priceless.” This is truly a powerful partnership that is impactful to both program participants, chaperones, and our Hidden Villa Youth Development team.

We appreciate your continued support that allows us to offer Hidden Villa programs and experiences to youth in the REAL program and throughout the Bay Area.

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Organization Information

Hidden Villa

Location: Los Altos Hills, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.hiddenvilla.org
Project Leader:
Sofia Pablo-Hoshino
Development Coordinator
Los Altos Hills, California United States
$22,675 raised of $30,000 goal
 
184 donations
$7,325 to go
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