Youth In Charge was started in Spring of 2009 by two founders, Ray and Vu. The group was trained by the Toxic Soil Busters youth team and funded in partnership with UMass Memorial Medical Center.
Youth In Charge are creating justice and safety in Bell Hill and Lower Lincoln and organizing youth to improve their neighborhoods. Our group is made up of 6 teenagers from Bell Hill and Plumley Village and a few adults who support our work. Like a social enterprise, we have jobs that pay us to do work that helps the community.
We do workshops, field trips, fund raising, community outreach and block parties, and lead safe landscaping. We share decision making like a cooperative business. We rotate work time facilitators who make the agenda, keep people on track and make sure everyone is doing their job. We make decisions by consensus.
We use straight talk to deal with conflicts in our group. We stay serious, express ourselves one at a time, and have a neutral person in the group hear both sides of any story. We make sure there is a solution to issues and make sure grudges aren’t created.
We have done community outreach for the Worcester Lead Abatement Program (WLAP) on Eastern Ave, Shelby St, Laurel St, Stanton St, Hopper St and Catherine St. We talk to residents about lead in the soil and tell them about our work. When people are interested in our services, we test soil to see if the lead level is high or low and send in the testing to the lab. After getting the result we inform the resident and take action on their soil if it is high. We measure the backyard and make a design with the resident that protects them from lead contamination.
- Build a 20 ft x 33 ft greenhouse at Stone Soup, 4 King St, Worcester as a pilot for larger sustainable year-round growing and aquaponics systems.
- Produce and distribute healthy food for Bell Hill area (a food desert) residents.
- Increase knowledge, awareness and investment in healthy food options for Bell Hill area residents and Worcester youth.
- Facilitate the building of a cooperative enterprise that creates, jobs, wealth and entrepreneurial skills with Bell Hill residents and Worcester youth.
Examples of successful urban greenhouse co-op projects that have gone to scale with similar approaches:
- Growing Power urban farms and aquaponic systems including 6 greenhouses in Milwaukee and Chicago http://GrowingPower.org
- Our Harvest Food Hub Co-op in Cincinnati, 10 full time worker-owners now (started in 2012): http://OurHarvest.coop
- Wellspring Greenhouse Co-operative, planning to build a 20,000 square foot greenhouse in Springfield, MA – partnership with Baystate Health: http://wellspring.coop/?p=27
- Green City Growers, part of Evergreen Co-operatives with 3.25 acres under cultivation in urban greenhouses in Cleveland, OH: http://evergreencooperatives.com/business/green-city-growers/
Youth In Charge Report 2010: