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2017-08-11 / Features

AEOA Youth Programs Grow Together

Recently four of AEOA’s youth programs collaborated across counties to create a vegetable garden at our Grand Rapids facility. Youth from AEOA’s Free at Last program in Grand Rapids, YouthBuild in Virginia and Pathways to Employment Readiness (PERY) in both communities came together to build raised bed gardens, install sand and dirt, and plant herbs and vegetables. Free at Last provides at-risk youth independent living skills while PERY and YouthBuild are career pathway programs aimed at providing youth the skills needed to succeed in high-wage, in-demand industries. The youth also partnered with Itasca Life Options a program aimed at providing employment for people with developmental disabilities.

The Virginia YouthBuild Program wrote and received a youth entrepreneur grant for $1,000 from the Northland Founda tion aimed at building raised gardens for the Virginia Rutabaga Project. They used their learning from the Rutabaga Project to construct the additional beds at the AEOA Grand Rapids Service Center to help youth and Itasca Life Options participants engage in the lifelong skill of gardening.

The YouthBuild participants built the raised beds and Hawkinson Construction of Grand Rapids delivered the sand, rock and top soil for the raised beds. Itasca Life Options clients assisted in filling the beds with the rock and sand. It was a “big” project, so to help with the filling of the beds Casper Construction came with an ASV to fill the raised beds. Finally, youth in the Free at Last and PERY programs planted seeds for the garden.

Youth are now watching tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, onions, basil and rosemary growing in the garden. Youth are enjoying the fruits of their labor as they harvest plants throughout the season. This project will benefit youth for years into the future as they learning to plant their own vegetables and enjoying the harvest.

For more information on Free at Last, PERY, or YouthBuild programs call DeAnna at 218-322-6503

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