One of the many benefits of working with Growing Alliances is witnessing the ease with which we build a supportive network around us. This experience makes me optimistic about the compassion of our community and the strength of our interpersonal relationships. We have so much support from students, the Bellingham gardening community and as we discovered recently, support from other local nonprofits that pair urban agriculture with youth employment programs.

On January 27, I took the trek from Bellingham to Olympia, Washington, just as the sun was rising, to attend the NW Youth and Garden Conference. The event took place at GRUB Farm, an inspiring program that partners with the public schools to provide alternative science programs and summer job opportunities. During the seven hour conference, we shared stories, advice, ate delicious food, and most importantly, discussed how we could work together to improve our services.

At one point during the conference we split into small groups to discuss more specific concerns of ours, which for me are the inclusion of all identities in our organization and the successful transfer of youth into higher employment or education after our program. It is always a concern when working with any group of people that someone will feel isolated, uncomfortable or unsafe, and it is a priority of Growing Alliances to host a respectful and safe space to learn and earn an income.

We then discussed methods used by past employees to successfully find further employment after they turned 18 and aged out of these programs. Growing Alliances plans on employing youth for at least a year after they age out of foster care so that they have dependable income during this time. This does not however, lessen the necessity of graduating our youth into more work or education. Some of the techniques we discussed included supervised mentorships in local businesses while still employed by Growing Alliances or providing continuous professional support during their new job. We also discussed the best ways to promote hardworking youth into roles with more responsibility so that they are successful, build more skills and confidence, while helping Growing Alliances to flourish.

One idea on how to collaborate was to develop group career service workshops, in which all youth from programs in western Washington would join together and build relationships while learning skills about interviewing, resume building, etc. We figure – why do it independently if it would be cheaper, easier and socially beneficially for the youth to do it together?

Collaboration is a beautiful thing, which left me feeling supported and inspired at the end of the day. We at Growing Alliances look forward to continuing the support and collaboration between organizations, so that we can provide the best programs possible for our youth.

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As always, we love to receive comments, ideas and critiques, so comment below or send us an email!

We are here to LEARN together

to GROW together

to THRIVE together.

Keep an eye out for announcements about our delicious fundraiser at the end of March!