The following is a letter to the editor that appeared in The Recorder. It is a fantastic reminder of how Creative Youth Development transcends discipline and allows us to honor creativity in unexpected places:
Thursday, August 6, 2015
In regards to the article “Statewide arts funding increases” (Aug. 1), in addition to wonderful arts-related programs, it is lesser known that the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) also supports several science and environmental initiatives.
Seeds of Solidarity’s SOL Garden program for North Quabbin youth relies on funding from the MCC YouthReach program (and the generosity of individuals locally and beyond) to provide low-income teenagers with a high-quality, garden-based program after school and throughout the summer. Each year, we provide hundreds of North Quabbin high school students with ecology, sustainable-agriculture and renewable-energy presentations in their school science classes. Then, throughout each spring, summer and fall, a diverse group of 25 North Quabbin teens engage in authentic learning and critical conversations on topics such as food and climate change, soil ecology and food justice plus gain real skills for resiliency through growing and cooking healthy food, and design/building projects. They learn civic engagement as they prepare community meals for those in need, help create gardens for local day cares, and educate thousands about composting at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival, among a host of other activities.
Importantly, and amidst a social backdrop of increased opiate use, the program provides a safe setting that is a beacon of hope and lifeline to a positive future. For many of the 400 local youth who have participated in our program since 1999, SOL Garden is a focus of their college essay (often first in their family to go) and a significant volunteer and work experience helping qualify them for jobs and careers. We offer our curricula, resources and videos on our website (seedsofsolidarity.org) to help launch similar programs regionally and nationally.
We do our best to keep our local legislators informed about SOL Garden and our other programs, and are very grateful for their efforts on the recent budget and override. This “arts” funding has the added benefit of supporting innovative science and environmental education, and creatively transforming the lives of many North Quabbin youth.
Deborah Habib, is director of the Seeds of Solidarity Education Center. Seeds of Solidarity re-imagines a self sustaining farm as a space for Creative Youth Development in Orange, MA and represents a strong cohort of programs in the sciences and humanities that are supported by YouthReach, STARS, and other MCC programs.