We (Natalie and Gabrielle) just returned from a 5-day regional training in Chicago organized by Grand Aspirations and man, was it awesome! We met and became friends with fellow Summer of Solutions program leaders from the Twin Cities, Detroit, Iowa City, Chicago, West Virginia, Hartford CT, and the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. Our Middleton program, Growing Food and Sustainability, was the only brand new program that was part of this Midwest gathering, so we had the incredible experience of receiving advice and support from many seasoned program leaders. Thank you for sharing your stories of success, failure, and personal insight with us!
Every single training was engaging and eye-opening, so it’s almost impossible to share only a few thoughts, but here are some ideas that really stuck with me.
- EVERYONE cares deeply about at least one of the four values that Grand Aspirations embodies: sustainability, prosperity, justice, and community. By integrating all of these, Summer of Solutions programs like ours can involve people traditionally left out of the “environmental movement”.
- Our current social, political, and economic system is not working for a vast number of American (and global) citizens, and their failures hit already marginalized groups the hardest. We can choose to create new systems that strengthen communities, sustain individuals, and value our environment.
- The transition is already happening. Cities like Detroit led the way for the expansion of American manufacturing, and they were also the first to be abandoned by our economic system. Now, out of necessity, they are leading the way again, this time in revolutionary green economy ventures.
- Creating the future that we want to see means making it sustainable, both environmentally and financially. By thinking about ways to grow businesses out of
our projects, we can provide needed products, services, jobs, and job training to our communities. In Middleton, we plan to start a raised bed vegetable garden installation business and a bike-powered composting business. Both will train high school students and post-high school youth in green entrepreneurship, nonprofit administration, and hands-on job skills.
- Personal (and community) transformation is dependent upon personal sustainability. We should strive to create jobs and experiences that people will be happy and satisfied dedicating their lives to. In other words, we have to take care of each other and ourselves.
Whew! I know that was kind of heavy, but I do believe in taking a step back every now and then to realize that our little project here in Middleton, WI is part of something much bigger.
We arrived home with a great sense of empowerment, inspiration, and responsibility. We have so much to do to get our program ready but there is so much possibility!
We are starting our collaboration with the Middleton High School Ecology Club and AP Environmental Science class next week. After giving an update on our progress, we will discuss the garden design, receive feedback on our program and high school internship opportunities, and brainstorm joint fundraising ideas.
We are also starting to bring together a team of students and community members who plan to help launch Growing Food and Sustainability in a number of ways. If you are interested in taking a more active role in the creation and running of this program, please contact us! We are dedicating a lot to this project and we would love to expand our team! In addition to “adult” community members, our goal is to have 5 full-time youth (under 30) participants and 5 high school interns signed-on by June. Please see the “Get Involved > Participate” page of our website for more details.
** If you are interested in becoming a full or part-time participant in our program this summer, please fill out this online application. If you are interested in becoming a high school intern, we will be posting an application here soon! **
Let’s rock it, Middleton!