August 10th marked the last day of our eight-week Summer Teen Leadership Program! Over the past eight weeks, 12 Ypsilanti teens joined us as part of our farm staff for an intensive summer program consisting of farm work and workshops related to food justice, community organizing, social identity, and cooking lessons. The teens worked hard this summer caring for their Oasis Garden, harvesting food for our CSA program, and partnering with local community gardens in the West Willow neighborhood and the Rec Park Senior Center. Highlights of the summer included field trips to We the People Opportunity Farm and Fed Up Food Ministries. At We the People Opportunity Farm the teens helped with the Thursday harvest and were inspired by the mission of a sustainable farming system that supports a workforce of formerly incarcerated men and women. The teens joined Fed Up Food Ministries at their Thursday Community Meal at the Growing Hope Market Place Hall and had a wonderful time distributing food and working in the food truck! The Teen Leadership Program is an integral part of Growing Hope and we are so proud of and grateful for this incredible group of young people! 

This Summer, 3 of our teens, Max Haire, Laleh Walker, and Miah Laster, graduated High School and will be moving on from the Teen Leadership Program. We are so proud of their work at Growing Hope and wish them all the best in their future endeavors! Laleh and Miah shared some reflections about their time in the Growing Hope Teen Leadership Program below

Hello fellow Hope Growers!

I’m excited to share my plans for the next chapter of my life with you all! In the fall I’ll be heading to EMU to pursue my passion for marketing and focus more on my interests such as seeking out a handful of knowledge and being involved in the community! It’s been an incredible journey so far, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. 

As I reflect on my time in this program, I can’t help but feel gratitude for the valuable experiences, lessons, and personal growth it has given me. Starting the program so young I didn’t appreciate it as much, but now I see its impact on shaping who I am today and the vital role we play for our community. From learning essential skills, to cultivating a space where everyone feels heard, safe,and valued, this program has empowered me to stand up for what I believe in, work around the obstacles that have been put in front of me, and never stop seeking opportunities. But most importantly to respect the land for all it does for us, to treat it with care and be intentional when doing so. I am truly grateful for the relationships forged, and the experiences gained. The work we do here is truly rewarding and that is why I’m so grateful that I got the chance to start being involved at such a young age and continue to build on that. 

Here’s to growth and the journey of life! 

Laleh Walker 

Dear Readers

Hello, my name is Miah and I have been in the ‘Teen Leadership Program’ for 4 years now. This fall I will be going to the University of Michigan Dearborn for Social Work/Psychology. I can truly thank Growing Hope for igniting my passion in working hand in hand with my community. As a young queer black woman I felt like my voice and opinions were insignificant; That it would be difficult to make any kind of meaningful difference. With growing hope we push for community and unity. The power, even a teen like myself, could have when we are given the opportunity/space to organize and communicate amongst each other. Here I found like minded teens who have a love for growing food and searching for equity in a world where equity is rarely founded. Getting to cultivate our own space that goes out to so many others in the community has given me such a great appreciation for our food system and fighting for the human right to healthy, nutritious plants. 

In my future studies, even though I am not going into agriculture or ecology, I hope to be able to make getting these important nutritious foods more accessible to all. Recognizing the important role food plays in every category of a human’s well being. The relationships I’ve made with others in the community, the opportunities I’ve been a part of, and my connection building with the land is something I am forever grateful for. I will be spreading this message and knowledge I have gathered from Growing Hope everywhere I go.

Miah Laster