by Olivia Evans, Schoolyard Gardener
For my first term in UBC Co-op, I had the pleasure to work with Fresh Roots as a summer schoolyard gardener. As a schoolyard gardener, my main tasks included planning garden layouts, harvesting fresh produce and overall garden maintenance. Schools involved with this project included Windermere Secondary, Britannia Secondary, Templeton Secondary, Strathcona Elementary, Grandview Elementary, Laura Secord Elementary, Total Education Program, and Nightingale Elementary. This overall experience taught me not only new skills in gardening and nutrition, but also about the importance of community.
Some of the highlights I had from this summer included working with the farm team at the David Thompson schoolyard farm, and the weekly lunch cooked by the Vancouver SOYL program participants, where we gathered together and ate outside at the Italian Cultural Centre.
This experience was one I hope to never forget, as it allowed me to engage in hands-on learning that will continue to aid me in my studies for the future.
Work with us next summer! We hire youth (ages 15-30) each year, with job opportunities posted starting in March 2022: https://freshroots.ca/about/job-opportunities/.
Thank you Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ), Vancouver School Board and MP Jenny Kwan for supporting schoolyard farms and engaging summer learning programs for kids and youth!
by Fiona Sutherland, SOYL Vancouver Mentor
As a mentor, I have loved seeing the growth and change this wonderful program has brought to not only my crewmates, but me as well. Watching everyone come out of their shells, take interest in farming, help the community, and expand their social circles has been so inspirational! Getting to know our wonderful SOYL youth this summer has been quite exciting, especially from a mentor point of view. I feel as if I have a lot more appreciation for the change and growth, I have seen from day one to now! Seeing the growth in myself is also incredibly exciting. I feel as if I learn more and more every year and I am so grateful for the opportunities this program has provided me with. My confidence in my own leadership skills is continuously growing as I receive feedback from our wonderful facilitators and help build on my current abilities.
SOYL provides such an inclusive and fun environment to learn in, and this summer has helped me develop and foster crucial life and leadership skills. For example, I now find it much easier to take charge and help lead bigger groups. I feel a lot less afraid to give others gentle reminders and to step fully into my leadership position! SOYL has given me the confidence to trust my own decisions, leadership related or otherwise. I truly appreciate how SOYL brings hundreds of youth opportunities that are few and far between in our education system – not only does the program help prepare us for the workforce, but it gives us valuable information about the outside world and how to stand out amongst our diverse and talented peers. SOYL teaches youth how to bring positive change to our society, no matter big or small.
Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.
by Caty Janze, SOYL Vancouver Mentor
Growth is a huge part of SOYL, both explicitly through workshops and more implicitly through activities like gardening, cooking, and art. Both have strengths and weaknesses, and the combination of the two creates an environment that allows youth chances to become comfortable in areas they wouldn’t otherwise.
We do workshop most days at SOYL on food security and sustainability, mental and physical health, and leadership and social enterprise. Although I’ve learned from each workshop, the social enterprise ones are the most challenging. Food workshops invite us to reflect on our values and our world, health workshops on how our minds and bodies work, while leadership/social enterprise workshops focus on our skills and how to market ourselves. The latter is difficult because saying good things about yourself is infinitely harder than quietly believing them; lending yourself to others opens you up to being misunderstood, or worse, being understood and still seen as inadequate. Why it’s uncomfortable is also exactly why it’s necessary. Confidence and self-knowledge are often conflated with arrogance and self-involvement, and so being allowed to speak well of yourself without fear of criticism is important for building those skills.
The other defining part of what makes SOYL what it is is the activities! We do work around the farm, and we cook for community eats. These activities get us to move our bodies, enjoy being outdoors, and build community. They also let us practice skills we talk about in workshops. After all, you can’t cook without being confident you won’t start a grease fire.
Overall, SOYL has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have grown more confident in my leadership skills over the course of this year’s program and watching the youth form friendships and develop skills has been fantastic.
Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.