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By Sandra Bonnici Hoecherl
Associate Director of Education
Equity. Achievement gaps. Record-high teen unemployment. These are common phrases heard in our community and they are deep and multifaceted challenges we face. We all have a stake and a role to play in making sure that our youth are growing, learning, and reaching their full potentials. Sometimes the challenges can seem so large that solutions can feel almost out of reach or too large for any one agency to make an impact. But every action counts and sometime you must start small. It is with that in mind that the MCM Education Department has launched a pilot program focusing on teen workforce development.
This past semester MCM has been piloting and partnering with an alternative high school program run through Goodman Community Center and MMSD called “Seed to Table.” The nine students enrolled in this program are working toward graduation and learning about urban agriculture and culinary arts. Weekly collaborations with these students looks to transfer what they are learning in the classroom onto our rooftop garden and other outdoor environments. They also push to enhance additional job skills. This pilot program has been made possible through a grant from JP Morgan Chase.
Every week students work with MCM rooftop manager, Julie King, to learn about different aspects of non-traditional urban garden spaces. Students have learned about green roof systems, animal care and handling in public settings, visitor engagement, and planting and growing in rooftop and patio environments. Plus they had great fun along the way. These experiences will help prepare them to apply for seasonal employment here at MCM and also build career skills in an emerging sector, urban agriculture. We are looking forward to welcoming our newest employees into MCM this summer!
Also during this first semester, Seed to Table students—including those most in need of support and resources to graduate and to envision a career path—worked with MCM staff to develop best practices for their unique learning experience. And, in addition to helping fund this project, JP Morgan Chase volunteers will be meeting with the students in the near future to coach them on interview skills and financial literacy.
Our first semester of working in-depth with a small group of students in helping them attain graduation and work force skills has proven to be invaluable learning and development for MCM. The next step is to continue to grow a program that will be part of a larger community solution toward decreasing the achievement gap and building youth workforce skill. We will continue to partner and collaborate with local businesses and agencies and keep our members up to date and involved in our progress.