Final report for YENC18-120
The Avalon Youth Leadership Program (YLP) provides opportunities for formerly homeless youth living in supportive housing to participate in a year long program involving all phases of operation of a market farm. YLP participants will also mentor younger children in Avalon’s Summer Program for Youth, and visit urban farms in Detroit. YLP teens will work as a team with a focus on experiential learning. The team will be led by the Project Coordinator, with assistance from a part time intern –both of whom will provide gardening and classroom education, using the evidence-based curriculum of The Agrarian Adventure and MSU Extension.
- Educate participants on the theories and practices of small-scale sustainable agriculture through information sessions, workshops, and the hands-on cultivation of their own YLP field.
- Enable participants to move beyond the trauma and violence of homelessness through person development including self-esteem, managing conflict, working in a team and developing leadership skills.
- Give participants practical leadership experience by mentoring younger residents of Avalon Housing through nutrition-based workshops provided by The Agrarian Adventure and MSU Extension.
- Introduce participants to sustainable and community-focused agriculture via visits to urban farms in Ypsilanti and Detroit.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Outreach to engage potential teen participants included Case Managers speaking with families and teens about the Youth Leadership Program, outreach and information given during our weekly Teen Night and through Community Builders and Edible Avalon coordinator directly engaging youth.
We had an application process through which interested teens submitted applications which were reviewed by the Edible Avalon coordinator. Additional input/insight was offered by other team members, including our Community Building Team Lead, Family Services Team Lead, and Director of Services. Six teens were selected for participation.
Knowledge of farming/gardening skills, money management, general money handling/financial skills (setting prices, making change, etc.)
YLP 2018 was wonderfully successful! With the support of SARE and other community partners we were able to recruit and support 6 teenagers from within Avalon Housing’s supportive housing community. Specifically, these funds allowed us to staff two weekly farmers’ markets where in the past we were only able to attend one. This allowed us to keep our youth participant numbers small (3 per market) while still providing space for each of them to attend 7 markets. In the past we either had to work with all 6 at a single market (not ideal for teaching purposes) or have them alternate weeks, thus they each only attended 3 markets. 2018’s new format, though, provided ample time for our Youth Leadership Program Coordinator to work individually with teen participants, building self-confidence, team-building skills, and strong communication skills over the summer.
In addition, the teen participants toured Eastern Market and a local farm. The students also worked with our younger residents during our Summer Program for Youth once a week for 8 weeks.
The YLP participants were split into two groups the Tuesday Market and the Thursday Market. Each group saw its unique growth over the summer months. The Tuesday group, for instance had three teenagers of various ages with very different personalities who, without this program, would likely have never interacted with one another. During the opening weeks, this disconnect was obvious, with participants keeping to themselves mostly and staying pretty quiet, both on the farm and at the market. However, by the end of the summer each was able to successfully operate the farmers’ market on their own, directing the others to support them, and those others happily supporting in turn. The teens quickly mastered the sales techniques of the farmer’s market, being sure to optimize sales at all moments. Proceeds from the market were split among the teenagers, and that incentive helped steer them to build a successful program. Because of this amazing team work, each group received more this summer than ever before. The teens worked hard each week to maintain the garden, producing over 1200 pounds of produce to support two farmers markets and donations to Avalon community BBQs, two Avalon food pantries, and additional produce to Food Gatherers.This year we implemented “mid year reviews” both to check in with YLP participants mid summer to provide and receive feedback, and to introduce the teens to common job-interview questions. Our Youth Leadership Coordinator was able to leverage these special moments to further build trust and rapport, and to connect one-on-one with participants to clarify and support areas of strength while providing constructive ways to improve on areas the participant may be concerned with.These reviews gave the YLP participants the opportunity to direct the way the second half of the summer went, and due to feedback received, the Youth Leadership Program Coordinator then provided participants the opportunity to lead the markets throughout the rest of summer. These participants, who at the beginning of the season would hardly introduce themselves to one another, were, by the end of the year, asking for more opportunities to show their skills, and compete with one another to see who can earn the most. Their confidence and communications skills blossomed over the summer.
All youth participating in YLP continued on during the school year with the Avalon Housing Teen Night. Teen Night is held weekly, and is mostly a space for teens to engage in pro-social interaction with their peers. It’s led by our EA Coordinator and other Community Building staff. While Teen Night is much less structured than YLP, it’s a great opportunity for us to keep kids engaged. We often have guest speakers, and facilitate conversations on relevant topics- often with a focus on social justice issues or future/goal planning.
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