Green jobs are growing more than twice as fast as the overall economy, according to a 2009 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. For six weeks this summer, NOLA Green Roots gave 48 New Orleans-area teens exposure to this field along with skills they can build on at their next job and in the classroom.
The program began on June 15. The teens, who came to us from the Job1 Training Program (sponsored by Goodwill Industries and the New Orleans mayor’s office) were split into four teams. Each week, the teams worked on one aspect of garden management—planting, harvesting, compost and building—until every participant had spent time in each of our gardens, receiving training in each kind of task. Some of the older teens staffed our main office, helping to update our database, answer telephones and prepare daily reports. On Fridays, Joseph Brock, NGR’s executive director, rewarded their hard work with nachos, ice cream and other snacks chosen by the teens.
Brock was assisted by four supervisors, Ivy Jackson, Teresa Thomas, Deidre Gantt and Audrey Davidson, who trained the youth on specific tasks, including how to seed squash and cantaloupe, prep a raised bed with lines and fresh soil, spot and remove weeds, tie up cucumbers, harvest okra and other veggies, test pH in developing compost, build a hoop house, operate small power tools and much more. NGR member Joe Biniek and HandsOn New Orleans staffer Patrick O’Brien also lent a hand with the compost and building projects.
Before and after heading to the gardens, the teens learned to develop a personal budget, complete a job application and other life skills. Towards the end of the summer, the teens demonstrated their new skills by collaborating on job descriptions for each garden station. “We were focused on these kids,” says Brock. “We wanted to do the best job possible for them. It paid off. We administered a great program that we hope to continue for many years to come.”
Special thanks to our members who braved the rain on July 23 to attend an end-of-summer appreciation party for our youth employees!