Here at Urban Roots, we’ve been on a mission for over a decade to cultivate leadership skills through food and farming to transform the lives of young people, and to inspire, engage, and nourish the community. Our efforts are centered around empowering youth and contributing to a more just food system. Leading the way is a group of empowered youth, equipped with the knowledge and skills to guide their own lives and to create positive change in their communities. In this blog post, you’ll meet one of those incredible youth leaders: Nicholas, a South Austin Intern. Keep reading to hear about his experience in the South Austin Internship and to learn more about the history of the program.
Meet Nicholas, a 16-year old youth leader who has been involved in the South Austin Internship (SAI) since the fall of 2019. Nicholas attends Johnson High School in Buda, TX and has the unique perspective of being a part of SAI since its very first cohort. If you haven’t heard of SAI, the South Austin Internship is a unique and powerful leadership opportunity for high school youth, ages 14-17 years old, in Southeast Austin to help shape the direction of Urban Roots’ new farm site in Dove Springs, a historically under-resourced neighborhood in Southeast Austin.
I wanted to get to know this organization, it seemed different compared to any ordinary job. I thought it might be fun to farm. I’m glad I did.
From October to May, SAI youth learn and practice grassroots organizing skills, such as block walking, hosting house meetings and virtual workshops, and a resident storytelling project in order to build meaningful connections with the Dove Springs community as we establish our second farm. Nicholas continued,
Urban Roots teaches us the value of farming, food and community engagement. We learn and listen to communities that aren’t usually heard or recognized. [Learning about] food insecurity and food deserts definitely allows me to see these problems out in the world and in my own city. Urban Roots is like no other job, we have games, activities, and projects while focusing on our mission.
We are so grateful to Nicholas and our other amazing youth who work hard to give back to our community and help contribute to a more just food system!
When we learned about the possibility of the new South Austin Farm back in 2017, we knew we wanted to be grounded in the community and hear from residents about how this new farm could best serve them. Being an organization that already worked with youth, we also wanted to find a way that empowered youth to be the leaders of these discussions. We then engaged with local schools, non-profit organizations, and community leaders who have been organizing in Dove Springs for years. From these early discussions, the South Austin Internship was born in the fall of 2019, a program that created an opportunity to have youth from Dove Springs and the greater South Austin area lead efforts to build meaningful relationships with our new neighbors. We are still so grateful for the special support we received early on from Go! Austin / Vamos! Austin, who helped us develop a curriculum for the program that would incorporate some of their community engagement strategies.
While the primary focus of SAI is to build relationships that open up conversations about the new farm and equitable food access in Dove Springs, SAI has also participated in community meetings that focused on other topics, such as displacement or flooding. This is because we want to understand the ways food justice relates or fits into other conversations that the community is already having. Ultimately, any connection SAI makes is an opportunity for reciprocity. SAI has also partnered with TreeFolks, various park adopters (residents who volunteer to oversee volunteer events at their neighborhood parks) in Dove Springs, the Youth Advisory Committee, and Austin Parks & Recreation. SAI youth also meet with residents who are considered leaders by their neighbors because of their dedication to advocating for their community.
In all, the South Austin Internship program has offered a total of 40 paid internship opportunities since it began. Urban Roots is proud of the opportunity this South Austin Internship program provides to South Austin Youth!
Want to help Urban Roots grow our impacts in 2022? Support Urban Roots and our efforts to grow youth leaders and contribute to our community’s growing needs by making a donation to Urban Roots today!