Thank You Grand Aspirations

This is Carey, a Program Manager of the Unity MNIC program for YEA Corps. I’ve been writing blogs for the past few months with updates of an aquaponics project that YEA launched at a high school in North Minneapolis. I was initially pulled to YEA for it’s focus in sustainable and entrepreneurial education. Through my work with YEA I’ve been immersed in the challenging and exciting ventures of teaching students about agriculture, the environment, aquaponics, and other related subjects. It’s been exciting to observe the positive trends in emerging environmental education programs in Minneapolis and around the country.

All that I’ve learned has given me a great amount of hope in shifting education systems and providing the next generations with the knowledge and tools to face oncoming environmental challenges. I was lucky enough to become a part of YEA Corps through a Grand Aspirations grant for Sustainable Community Organizers, and I’ve been very appreciative of the chance to work with these organizations and on the Unity aquaponics project.


(Above is a picture of YEA staff running an interactive ‘Systems’ activity with Unity students.)

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Constructing Unity Gardens

Hey ya’ll, this is Carey here, a Program Manager of the YEA Corps initiatives at Unity MNIC. I’ve been providing updates each week on the progress of the Unity Gardens program that launched back in September. Below are updates from the past two weeks on the Unity Gardens, soon to be blooming and bursting with life!

The YEA team at Unity works to manage and direct the students towards our project goals, and these students never fail to bring energy needed to accomplish them. We have spent the last two work sessions at the school directing the energy of the students towards painting projects, construction of biofilters, project planning, and engaging worksheets. On December 5th our team, Zach, Saeed, Mike, and myself came to Unity with painting supplies, constructions tools, and materials for the aquaponics systems. We also brought in the first garden bed for the systems. Greg, a student, helped the team to bring the garden bed from the parking lot up to the classroom, which is not as easy as it sounds. The bed is four by eight feet, and however large, fits very well in the project room.


Unity Student, Mike, and Saeed from YEA are constructing a biofilter.

Rere, another student, is in the marketing group that focuses on managing media, product design, branding, and other aspects of the project. Last week, Rere was talking about how she was ready to plant and grow vegetables. When the garden bed was brought into the school she asked if we would be planting seeds that day. Students will be planting seeds very soon, but not till after the Holidays. The students are engaging in different aspects of the project but they will all take part in the process of producing fish and plants through the Spring. This project is great in many ways, and one positive aspect is giving the students opportunities to work on a wide variety of subjects. Students like Rere, focus on planning and marketing of the project, and also participate in the more hands-on learning activities. Continue reading

Unifying Aquaponics at Unity

This post is by sustainable community organizer Carey deVictoria-Michel. You can read her previous posts here and here.

I started my positions with YEA in September when I helped launch one of our programs at Unity Minnesota Internship Center (MNIC) in lively North Minneapolis. Yea Corps’ mission is to provide hands-on sustainable education to youth empowering them for life, education, and employment. This is what YEA has been gradually implementing at Unity MNIC students during this school year into the Spring.

The YEA Unity field trip to an aquaponics business in Minneapolis.

YEA program managers, including myself, arrive at Unity MNIC most every Wednesday. Usually we get to the school, greet our regular students at the entrance when they are hanging out and taking one of their breaks. Our program is based out of the top level of the school in the upper-class classrooms in a shared two room space. Students work in this space with teachers, scattered at different tables and working on various assignments, or taking one the required standardized tests. Students at Unity come from diverse backgrounds, and have the opportunity of alternative education at MNIC, where they are given flexible classes and assistance in getting their diplomas. Continue reading

North Minneapolis Youth Visit the Urban Farm Project

Chad (L) sharing his knowledge with the students (R).

This is Carey with some updates from the YEA Corps program at Unity high school in Minneapolis where YEA is teaching sustainability and entrepreneurial education. YEA Corps is a month into our school programs, and recently we took students on a field trip. We got to the Unity campus last Wednesday prepped and ready to bring students to the Urban Farm Project. The first thing I heard once we got to the school was a couple students making jokes about churning butter and petting the cows at the ‘farm’. This was pretty funny, because there would be no cows, no farm animals, and no butter churning on this farm visit (although that would be fun). The Urban Farm Project is not your classical farm on the countryside. The Urban Farm Project is a for-profit operation in South Minneapolis that produces perch and a plethora of fresh vegetables, and they grow all of this through aquaponics systems in a large converted warehouse space. Continue reading

Building POWER and Growing Food in Rogers Park

This is the third post in a series of introductions by Sustainable Community Organizers working in the Midwest. This post is by Lookman Muhammed from the Chicago Summer of Solutions program.

Lookman Muhammed at the greenhouse

My name is Lookman Muhammed. I’m originally from Nigeria, I’ve been residing in Chicago, IL in the Rogers Park neighborhood for 15 years since the age of 3. I initially began working with Summer of Solutions LETS GO Chicago based at the United Church of Rogers Park on the north side of Chicago under Peter Hoy. From the month of May 2012 up until August I worked building rain gardens, advocating for more sustainable ways to live, and educating the community on how to grow food and become sustainable.

At first I looked at this as simply a job where I can make money to provide for myself and my unemployed mother. But after these long months of being around nothing but people who were so passionate about urban agriculture and changing the Rogers Park community for the better It rubbed off on me and I started loving this job much more than I did in the beginning of working with Summer of Solutions. I completed the summer program and learned about the many possibilities that exist if we can spread this idea of sustainability throughout the country. The many jobs that can be brought to the U.S. and the possibility of ending hunger appealed to me the most because of the growing poverty I’ve witnessed in Chicago over the years.

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YEA Corps Launch Day

My name is Carey deVictoria-Michel. This summer, I was a participant in the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions and during this time my eyes were opened to all the amazing things that are happening in this city.  Through funding available to Summer of Solutions participants, I was able to create a position for myself at YEA Corps, a Minneapolis based non-profit that leads educational programs focused on entrepreneurship and sustainability. This is the first blog post in a series by the five Summer of Solutions alumni who will be building their own careers with support from Grand Aspirations in the coming year.

Me (r) talking to a student at the YEA Corps launch day at Unity Charter School.

My job with YEA Corps this year will be to mange a project at the YEA Corps program at the Minnesota Internship Center at the Unity Campus. Unity is a charter school located in North Minneapolis working with students who come from diverse backgrounds, in a neighborhood considered to be a food desert. YEA Corps and Minnesota Internship Center received a grant from Hennepin County to start an experiential learning program for environmental education in North Minneapolis. By the end of the year these kids will have built their own aquaponics systems, created their own business and marketing plan to sell fresh produce and fish, and have learned about sustainability and food systems. We had our big launch day with the students this past week. Continue reading