High school students dug deep into their studies this summer, participating in the Green Village Initiatives (GVI) Youth Leadership Program while also earning college credits from Housatonic Community College (HCC). The innovative partnership between the two organizations allowed students to earn four college credits in Biology while immersing themselves in the vibrant learning environment of GVI’s Reservoir Community Farm.
“When community can weave together to hold our youth, we all benefit for generations to come. This partnership has led to new dreams and ideas in our youth program that neither HCC nor GVI could have held alone - the opportunity for youth to gain college credits while working their first summer job opens up futures filled with excitement and opportunity that we are so grateful to be a part of," said GVI Executive Director Eleanor (Ellie) Angerame.
Eight students, ages 14-18, participated in the rigorous, eight-week program. For six days each week, students attended online learning while enrolled in HCC’s Plant and Civilization Course. The farm served as an outdoor lab for the class, where students learned about the process of seed to table, plant anatomy & physiology, food access and sustainability, food deserts, food justice and more.
“Students learn better when they’re getting their hands dirty,” said Ofonime Udo-Okon, GVI’s youth leadership program manager. “HCC is setting a precedent as to what integrated, wholistic learning can look like.”
On Bridgeport’s only educational urban farm, the students, who all either live or attend school in Bridgport, were transformed into young food leaders. Through their studies and hands-on instruction, each learned their role in the food system, and how to make a positive change.
“I wanted to be in the program so I can give back to the community,” said Sariah Cohen, a 15-year-old sophomore at Bridgeport’s Central High School. “I like that we provide the community with fresh, inexpensive food.”
GVI’s Youth Leadership Program is rooted in food justice, addressing the reality that low-income, people of color are severely impacted by food insecurity, poor access to nutritious food, and the resulting diet-related illnesses. The program teaches young people how to take action to remove food barriers and provide access to healthy produce for Bridgeport’s community.
“GVI is a jewel in the city that can sustain our future,” said HCC’s Dean of Academic Affairs Robin Avant. “Seeing the youth deeply embedded in soil is remarkable. As they grow crops, the students are growing their independent knowledge and experiences, while building agriculture sustainability plans that are critical to food justice.”
Caption For Photo Above: Members of the 2020 Green Village Initiatives Youth Farm Crew.
Caption For Photo Right: Green Village Initiative Executive Director Eleanor (Ellie) Angerame stands before the Hoop House on GVI’s Reservoir Community Farm. GVI also manages 23 school gardens and 12 community gardens throughout the city of Bridgeport.
Caption For Photo Right: West Haven High School Senior Maya Angela Wheeler harvests tomatoes for GVI’s weekly farm stand. Each year the stand produces thousands of pounds of food for the Bridgeport community.
Caption For Photo Right: Sariah Cohen, age 15 from Bridgeport, weeds beds filled with velour beans and sweet potatoes.