Green Teens program offered at Highland Youth Garden

By Christine Bryant
Staff Writer

The Highland Youth Garden has opened applications for the Green Teens program, a paid, summer work program for youth in the Hilltop area ages 14 to 18. Teens who live or go to school in Franklinton or in the Hilltop areas are invited to apply for the program that runs from mid-June through mid-August.

A local organization is offering teens looking for a summer job the opportunity to spend some time outdoors while earning some cash.

The Highland Youth Garden has opened applications for the Green Teens program, a paid, summer work program at the garden for youth in the Hilltop area ages 14 to 18. Teens who live or go to school in Franklinton or in the Hilltop areas are invited to apply for the program that runs from mid-June through mid-August.

Teens will work approximately 20 hours per week and help maintain the garden by planting, weeding, fertilizing and using hand tools.

The Highland Youth Garden is a half-acre plot of land that sits at 67 S. Highland Ave. just south of West Broad Street and is home to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2023, the garden produced 3,800 pounds of fresh produce that was distributed to neighbors and residents in need.

“At Highland Youth Garden, we are interested in supporting our immediate community: the Hilltop and Franklinton,” executive director Shelly Casto said. “We want to grow ‘the good stuff’ right here, where so much good already exists. We want teens to feel pride in their neighborhood and play a role in helping to build it up further.”

The Green Teens program began in 2019 and has employed 51 youth, Casto says. This year, the organization aims to hire 15 youth.

“We want teens to feel pride in their neighborhood and play a role in helping to build it up further,” she said. “We believe that’s the way that all our communities will thrive – by tapping into all the talents and positive energy that exists in a place and encouraging it to thrive.”

Casto says the goal of the program is to also teach young people that there are many great ways to make a living that involve building up the community, including urban agriculture.

“While it’s hard work, there are lots of resources out there to support urban farmers who, while making that living, are also essential contributors to the health and well being of our populations,” Casto said.

Green Teens employees will also facilitate and run the Highland Youth Garden’s Garden Market, have opportunities to work with younger children during gardening activities, cook as a team using fresh produce from the garden, and learn about qualities like leadership and teamwork, urban agriculture, nutrition, food justice and money management.

Applicants should love working in the garden and not mind getting dirty or sweaty, work well with team members, enjoy facing new challenges, are excited to explore new topics and have an interest in serving communities.

“They should have an open mind, a willingness to work hard and a positive attitude toward working as a team,” Casto said.

While she says some teens are initially reluctant to get their hands dirty, by the end of the summer, most are excited about being outdoors and working hard with their new friends.

One of the teens who worked for the program named Genesis (who the organization requested that her last name be withheld) said that what she will remember most are the interactions and experiences.

“A lot of hands-on work and I also like the people who work here,” she said. “It’s very much fun and chillax, but you’re also learning a lot of things like cooking and gardening.”

In fact, Casto says all of the cooking activities are popular.

“We eat well at Highland Youth Garden,” she said.

The deadline to apply for the Green Teens program is April 26. Interested teens can apply at highlandyouthgarden.org/green-teens-info.

 

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