86 middle school students participating in the Summer Youth Development Academy (S-YDA) at California State University Dominguez Hills honed their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills through four weeks of learning about sustainable urban farming. Daily, 40-minute classes guided students through a discovery process of how plants grow and ways science and technology can improve food sustainably. Their learning culminated in a “give back” service project in which they put their new agricultural knowledge to work by installing two new garden beds at the Watts GRoW Garden in Watts.

Access to healthy foods has become a hotspot of community need. Learning to plant a sustainable garden tangibly impacts health, economics, and ecology. Communities with access to innovative gardening techniques experience resilience and renewal, leading to improved quality of life. Introducing middle students to concepts like aquaponics and hydroponics prepares them to not only be better prepared for academic success, but also to be a resource to their own community’s brightest future.

In partnership with Ourfoods, a local non-profit social enterprise, dedicated to urban agriculture education, training, and jobs, S-YDA students received valuable education with tangible applications. Led by their instructor Natalie Kra, a Ourfoods employee and recent USC graduate, students explored soil quality, water conservation, and technologies for growing healthy foods anywhere. Most importantly, students learned about the power of food and how it can transform communities.

This class is a good example of how Sharefest is working to prepare youth to lead positive change in their communities and expose them to inspiring college and career opportunities.

Sharefest wishes to extend a special thank you to Ourfoods for sharing a vibrant vision for the future of our local communities and partnering to revitalize hope and flourishing.