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Youth Empowerment through Gardening


Reuse posters from jeans!Reuse posters from jeans!The SLWRP students at Cesar Chavez have been doing a lot of Reuse, and a lot of Rot, lately! Not only did they successfully complete another round of Jeans for Teens through the Aeropostale store in Pleasanton - where they collected  150 pairs of jeans for youth in homeless shelters - but they've also been helping out at the school's garden, too. A fantastic partnership has developed between Chavez's after-school program, the Youth Enrichment Program (YEP), and Project EAT, a program whose mission is to "end health inequities and close the achievement gap in school communities" through gardening and nutrition curriculum.

site of the new gardensite of the new gardenYEP has been using the dark greens (chard, kale), and other veggies from the garden as part of its cooking club, which meets weekly on Wednesdays. Karen Byers, the SLWRP lead and YEP Coordinator at Chavez, is a big fan of greens and finding ways to "cook them right", with spices and golden balsamic vinegar, to make students fall in love with them. YEP students have also been a big part of Project EAT's after-school Gardening Club which meets twice weekly. The club is now re-vamping itself into an internship, complete with an application. "I wanted to get a little more commitment from the students to come each meeting," Josh Bennett, Chavez's Project EAT lead explained. "I also want to do more in-depth, fun things like taking students on field trips - like to an organic farm - so they can learn more about local, California agriculture."

The garden at Chavez has been so successful thus far (complete with picnic tables, compost piles, and planter boxes), that it's being moved to a larger, sunnier spot by Josh's office. Karen has asked to keep the kale-filled planter boxes in their original location (close by YEP's classrooms), so those students who aren't already part of the new Garden Internship program can still take care of those perennials, and have easier access to them for cooking. Both Karen and Josh hope to get new, future 6th graders interested in YEP and the garden by painting swirling leaves, fruits, flowers, veggies, and colorful hand-prints around the sides of the garden at an upcoming 6th grade Visitor Day in April. Karen also plans to hook them with her second annual Trashy Fashion Show, featuring clothing created from second-hand clothing, "trash," and recyclable items.

More to report later this spring!