GRuB Inspires and Educates Youth
by Anna Robinson
As a former educator, I came to Garden-Raised Bounty (GRuB) almost six years ago with a passion for youth and a burgeoning interest in food security and social justice work. In the time since, I have been blown away by the impact our youth program has on participating teens and their families.
Each year, students walk onto our farm with a bit of uncertainty, a lot of curiosity, and a glimmer of hope in their eyes. Hope that they will find something different here. These are youth who come with backpacks full of potential challenges, many of who have been written off by their families or teachers. We see them as powerful future leaders with the ability to harness their innate strengths by engaging in powerful community and personal change work, thereby opening up opportunities to take on responsibility for their own choices, actions, and future life direction.
Currently, one in three (29%) low-income youth in Thurston County do not finish high school. Just as the current food system is not meeting the needs of our communities, the current educational system is not meeting the needs of many of our young people. In addition to high dropout rates, obesity among low-income teens is nearly triple that of more affluent peers. The food movement cannot merely intersect with large institutions like schools; it needs to be changing the nature of those institutions.
What if a high school learning experience could look and feel like GRuB? What if we could transform our local educational and food systems at the same time? What if disengaged students who are currently struggling to find meaning in our one-size-fits-all school system actually earned core credits while learning about and contributing to their local community food systems?
Imagine, multiple GRuB-like sites in Thurston County providing 100+ disengaged youth with meaningful and relevant leadership & learning experiences on important issues in our community year-round. While students invest in the betterment of our community, they earn credits, graduate, and move on towards their own dreams and goals. GRuB is on the verge of such a project. Our first step is to work with one school to plan and get our systems in place, test them out, and then apply them with greater ease at future sites.
The Pilot - Olympia High School: Our pilot goal is to provide a two-year program (based on our successful Cultivating Youth Employment Program model) where disengaged students from Olympia High School have an opportunity to realize their potential through education, leadership development, nutrition, and summer employment. Beginning in July, 24-27 Olympia High School students will join us here on the GRuB Farm. After completing our intensive summer employment program, students will spend 3 periods per day at GRuB, earning Career & Technical Education credits in Horticultural Science, American studies, and Interpersonal Relationships.
Following the pilot, our goal is to partner in replication efforts to establish similar programs throughout our region. Several local high schools other neighboring districts and a growing number of other county districts (Lewis, Mason, Whatcom, and King Counties) are interested in this initiative.
From 2001-2009, only 41% of youth entering GRuB's youth program were on track to graduate. Today, over 91% have graduated or earned their GED and 66% have gone on to college.
I learned more at GRuB than in 13 years of school combined. The curriculum that was taught, the team-building, people skills, how to be a leader in our society, things like that are so important to me as a youth. If the things that I learned at GRuB were being taught in the classroom, I know it would make a profound change in the community and beyond.
As our organization takes on the exciting challenge of transforming our academic year employment program into a school model based on our proven, innovative curriculum, I could not be more confident that it will be a success. Our experienced staff provides a safe space for disengaged youth to learn and grow in a way that most traditional classrooms cannot. I hope you see the same merit in this project as I do and see yourselves as a future partner in making it a reality.
For more information or to make a financial contribution to support this initiative, please visit www.goodgrub.org or call 360-753-5522.
Anna Robinson is the Grants & Marketing Coordinator at GRuB. Her background is in education and youth development.
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