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Healing Through Horticulture

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"I like the garden because it gets me outta my room. It also reminds me of when I was little and I helped my grandpa with our garden. I love fresh fruits and veggies. It's just cool that we have something to do while we are in here." This is what Barbara, a 14 year old detainee of the Charlie Byrd Youth Corrections Center in Yreka, said of the garden constructed on the grounds of the facility.

This attitude is common amongst the youth at the Center. On average CBYCC holds about 16 minors per day. These young people range in age, ethnicity and socio-economic background but a common need is that of learning and healthy interaction. Thus the idea of a therapeutic garden came about.

A garden is a powerful experiential tool that can connect people with science, nutrition, food production, ecological responsibility and community beautification. Realizing all these positive benefits the educational team at J. Everett Barr School (the school associated with CBYCC) worked with their partners at the University of California Agricultural Extension, to bring a specific curriculum called Teams with Intergenerational Support to their students. TWIGS focuses on hands-on learning through the use of senior citizen advisors. This interaction between the generations not only proved to produce good plant life but it produced healthy interaction for the students. Bethany, age 17, remarked "What really amazed me was how well my peers were able to get along. We were able to use teamwork and we were able to build up our relationships through working on projects together. "

Stacey Jackson, CBYCC Superintendent, spoke about the garden "The garden project is special because it gives the youth the ability to see things grow and connect with the earth. It gives them a sense of life. Through a garden, the whole life cycle is shown to them." Stacey told an especially poignant story about a group of minors who planted some Morning Glories in the hard soil by the fence. The students were sure the flowers would not thrive in the unfriendly soil. Yet, sure enough, the flowers bloomed and filled the garden with color. The students were amazed at the idea that things can grow even in the hardest of circumstances.

Today, with the help of an $11,000 grant from The McConnell Fund at the Community Foundation, the Charlie Byrd Youth Corrections Center has a fenced in garden area with raised fruit, vegetable and flower beds, and a greenhouse equipped with electricity and plumbing. Because of this program youth who have ended up on the tougher side of life have been given a thing of beauty. Often, students who spend a great deal of time with the garden get to take a plant home with them as a reminder of the patience and persistence it takes to make something beautiful where there was once nothing before.

Related Fund: McConnell Fund

 

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