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  • Writer's pictureSarah Kearsley

Reflecting on the Youth Leadership Program at Roberts Farm

For the second summer season, Roberts Farm Experiential Learning has teamed up with the Alan Day Community Garden in offering the Youth Leadership Program. This month-long summer experience is open to middle and high school students in the Oxford Hills. We try to make this program as accessible as possible - the program is free of charge and we provide lunch and transportation to those who need it. When applications opened this spring, we were impressed by the amount of interest in the program! We were able to fill all slots and even had to start a short wait list.

Starting in the second week of July, students spent two weeks at Roberts Farm and two weeks at the Alan Day Community Garden. Through this collaborative partnership, we were able to run two sessions simultaneously so one cohort was based at each location. Halfway through the program, these groups switched locations.

During their time at Roberts Farm, students facilitated garden-based lessons and games for elementary summer school classes. They also supported the gardens on site, participated in leadership activities, and hiked the trails at Roberts Farm Preserve. During their time at the Alan Day Community Garden, students also supported garden projects on site, participated in leadership activities, and learned to cook in the new commercial kitchen which was just constructed. On the final day of the program, the two cohorts met for a day of reflection, celebration, and homemade pizza in the pizza oven.

As we reflect on this amazing program, here are some of the highlights:

  • When asked to boil down their Youth Leadership Program experience into one word, here is what students came up with:

  • Almost 90% of Youth Leaders said their experiences made them more interested in gardening and growing their own food.

  • More than half of students said the Youth Leadership Program made them more comfortable with spending time outside.

  • Nearly three quarters of students said they left the Youth Leadership Program with an increased understanding of their impact on their community.

  • Two thirds of Youth Leaders reported feeling more capable of teaching others, more confident speaking in front of groups, and more interested in eating healthy food.

  • 80% of students said the program gave them an increased understanding of their strengths.

When asked about how the Youth Leaders have changed over the course of the program, here is what they said:

  • "I have changed a lot because I'm more confident. 'Cause before I started the program I was not brave enough to teach smaller kids but now I've built more confidence to teach younger kids."

  • "I think I have gotten a lot better at speaking up, and my social anxiety has diminished"

  • "I learned how to cook different things."

  • "During the lessons I actually got to do some awesome leading."

  • "I could not speak in front of others, now I can."

Given the success of this summer's Youth Leadership Program, we are excited to be starting a Roberts Farm Club for middle and high school students throughout the year! Our plans are still in the works, but stay tuned for more information as we work out the details.

The Youth Leadership Program would not be possible without some incredible community collaboration! We are grateful for the Alan Day Community Garden staff and volunteers for their strong support and partnership. We love having the opportunity to collaborate so closely with Camp Achieve, the MSAD 17 elementary summer school program. We are also thankful for the financial support from Maine West to support two paid interns at Roberts Farm who directly supported the Youth Leadership Program.

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