Garden that Offers Opportunities to At-Risk Youth Seeks to Grow
By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña
Second Chance Youth Garden, which provides job readiness skills by combining classroom and hands-on learning through gardening, has reached capacity and is seeking new spaces to continue supporting its program.
The youth garden, a program of Second Chance, a San Diego nonprofit that provides programs for at-risk youth, is a six-week program for individuals ages 14 to 21.
Second Chance currently has two spaces for the youth garden but according to Trisha Gooch, vice president of advancement and external affairs for Second Chance, they have reached capacity and are looking for a space to grow.
Their two garden plots are located in Encanto and City Heights, so they hope that they can stay in southeast San Diego.
She said that if anyone can donate land to the organization, it would help them increase the amount of produce that participants can grow and increase revenue for the program.
Participants attend the program four days a week and learn not only how to garden but also the importance of nutrition, how to sell their products during their weekly pop-up market, and earn stipends, according to Gooch.
“The most important thing (Second Chance Youth Garden) provides for the teenagers is something positive and constructive and supportive to do with their time,” Gooch said.
And although pulling weeds and watering plants under the sun does not seem like the first activity an average teenager would choose to do willingly, participants of the Second Chance Youth Garden are doing so to have a chance at a better future.
Jesse Hernandez, was seeking just that when he joined the youth garden in September and again in January.
The Paradise Hills 17 year old was looking to expand his opportunities and for something to keep him busy and out of trouble.
“In life, I just want to grow and expand and be more,” Hernandez said. “I live for knowledge and I live for growth.”
Hernandez joined the Second Chance Youth Garden in September but could not complete it for personal reasons so he returned from January to February.
He is currently in his last year of high school and will soon begin working as an intern for the City of San Diego, and plans to attend community college in 2019.
He is passionate about communication and learning the reasons behind people’s interactions with each other, something that he learned about through the youth garden.
Hernandez said the program helped him learn to become more punctual, embrace teamwork, and improve his communication skills.
He said that he encourages others to take the opportunity that the garden offers or any other opportunity that will allow them to try something new.
The produce from the youth garden is sold through a community supported agriculture program, which includes 10 weekly boxes of fresh produce for $300.
Students also have the opportunity to develop sales and marketing skills by selling produce during their pop-up market.
According to Gooch, the money generated from the sales go back into providing the participants with stipends and she said that oftentimes the participants are taking those stipends to help their families.
Gooch said they depend on the support of the community to keep the program going, so they encourage community members to join the CSA program, attend the pop-up stands, or donate to the garden through their website.
She said that participants are often surprised by how much they enjoy the program and added that in some instances some prefer to be there than at home.
“That speaks volumes to me, that a teenager would rather work in the hot sun pulling weeds than go home, so I think they are always surprised that it’s as much fun as it is,” Gooch said. “They’re surprised that they learned as much as they do, and they are always just grateful that they can come and someone will listen to them.”