From the desk of Deena Murphy, Education Director
Over the last several years, King Street Center has developed a partnership with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps
(VYCC). From trail maintenance to farming, the work skills developed in this supportive atmosphere is a great opportunity for high school youth. This year we have 5 King Street Center teen girls participating in the VYCC summer farm crew. They are earning a summer stipend, which is very important to them, as well as gaining new experiences and perspectives. Better yet, the crops that they are growing & harvesting are utilized in a Health Care Share
program where Vermont families with fresh, healthy food and nutrition education at their doctor’s office.
There have been two 4-week sessions. We had 2 teens in the first session and there are currently 3 teens in the second session. Their primary work is farming vegetables
. One day per week each VYCC team does “chores” which might be searching for eggs from the free-range hens, feeding the pigs, or cooking for the lunch meal. VYCC is fortunate to employ a very large Americorps staff and they are pretty impressive, most especially the crew leader our kids are working with, Andy Rhodes.
The farming day is long, hot, (or rainy!) and the commute is a challenge. The corps members work from Monday-Thursday from 8-4:30 p.m. In the case of these Burlington residents, they need to leave their homes between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. to take the bus to Richmond and don’t get back until after 5:00 p.m. I have been driving them to the Montpelier bus in the morning which leaves from Pearl Street in Burlington and I pick them up when the bus brings them back. Then, they don’t have added challenge of another leg of transportation, especially since some of the girls do not live close to the bus stop. While we’re in the car together, I try to provide as much encouragement and support as I can. I recently got them hats and bug spray – and to keep spirits up, I sent brownies for the whole 50-person crew today!
I love hearing the girls tell me funny stories about the people they have met and I think VYCC does a good job with team building. The kids all seem very comfortable on the farm and they enjoy showing me where everything is (pigs, tomatoes etc.) and they seem to feel some ownership. They have a circle meeting at the end of the day where they do “roses and thorns” or guess their spirit animals, etc. resulting in a lot of laughter. While the King Street crew doesn’t especially love the lunch menu (more spice, please!) — which is completely farm-to-table, the experience of shared cooking duties, eating together at picnic tables outside in the beautiful farm setting is a learning opportunity.
We are grateful to VYCC for seeing the beauty in engaging King Street Center kids in their programs – and appreciate the recent donation to VYCC from the “Random Acts of Kindness Fund” at the Vermont Community Foundation to make work experiences like this possible.