The Tutorial Center’s Summer Work and Learn Program is well under way in both Manchester and Bennington, thanks to a Department of Labor grant has enabled it to replicate its successful Youth Agriculture Project in 2010, which allows The Tutorial Center to employ a team of youth ages 16-21 as paid Crew Workers over the summer.
The Tutorial Center is thrilled to have been able create a Summer Work and Learn program in the Northshire area as well as in Bennington. A team of youth are busy tending plots at the community garden site at the Manchester Recreation Area, selling products at the farmers’ market, donating vegetables to local food banks, and participating in job readiness opportunities and workshops. The Transition Town Manchester, an active group in the Northshire, is collaborating with the SWL program to promote and sustain the community garden site at the Recreation Center.
The Tutorial Center has operated popular Summer Work and Learn programs in the Bennington area for the past four years, providing youth ages 16-21 with work experiences in planting, tending, and harvesting crops, selling produce at local farmers markets, as well as carrying out service projects in the community.
This is the fifth year for this Tutorial Center program, which began in 2006 and works in close collaboration with the Vermont Department of Labor and University of Vermont Extension to provide education and job training for at-risk and out-of-school youth. The Vermont Department of Labor funds the youth wages.
Last year’s youth crew workers were enthusiastic about their experiences. “This is a totally new experience for me,” said Keith Bradt, 18. “But I’ve learned a lot and it’s actually fun! I can definitely see how I will use what I have learned in the future.” And Taigan O’Dell, 17, agreed. She can now name all the herbs and flowers on the table and talk enthusiastically about how to grow and use them. Dan Pisciotta, 17, said the best part for him is meeting all the people at the market and being part of a community. “And our bosses rock!” he said.
Rick Heyniger, the 2009 Bennington Summer Work and Learn program’s horticultural consultant, said about the program, “It’s more about the process than the produce.” While the veggies and flowers are a nice product, for many of the youth, the most valuable aspect is the personal growth and the teamwork.
Community members and gardeners interested in supporting the project or making equipment and supplies donations should contact Hilary Batchelor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-824-4565.