DC Summer of Solutions Introduces its New Program!

Greetings friends! This is Josephine and Jeremiah from the DC program, Cultivating Intergenerational Leaders.  We are a new program that is working on creating a program that will engage middle and high school youth, college students, and senior citizens around issues of food justice. Earlier this month, we hosted the January Gathering, where program leaders from other cities such as Arleta, CA, Reno, NV and the state of West Virginia came together to participate in a training to prepare us to organize and host a Summer of Solutions program in our home communities.  This training was held at the Steinbruck Center at the Luther Place Memorial Church, which works to provide youth, students, and adults with the tools to address the root causes of poverty.

Those five days helped to give us the tools that we need to better prepare for our summer programs and to connect with other people who are working on similar projects.  I particularly appreciated the opportunity to provide input on the anti-oppression workshop as well as the information gained from the more technical workshops such as the accounting training. Continue reading


Local Solutionary Stories

Eli Shepherd’s Story

As is the tradition, many folks like to use the beginning of the year to reflect on the past year, and also to look forward, to set, if you will, their Grand Aspirations for the year ahead. As a 2013 program leader with the Iowa City Summer of Solutions program, I am just too excited to keep my Grand Aspirations for the program from the rest of the world.

I stumbled into Summer of Solutions in June of 2012- rather, I came across a Facebook post soliciting “solutionaries,” and subsequently walked over to a church basement in downtown Iowa City in June of 2012- and at first had no idea what to think. There was one really excited person who greeted me at the door, one person who I later discovered was also in high school, several people who attended the University of Iowa, several people who were studying engineering, and enough chairs and pumpkin muffins for the whole lot of us. By the end of our training week I knew I had found a home but it wasn’t until early August that I became truly invested in the work.

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Lace up your trainers…January Gatherings are fast approaching!

Grand Aspirations’ January Gatherings are 5-days of intensive training to give program leaders the tools to run successful programs in their communities.  This year, we are hosting three January Gatherings in program locations across the country!

  • Washington, D.C. from December 28th-January 1st
  • Hapeville, Georgia from January 9th-13th
  • Chicago, Illinois from January 17th-21st

January Gatherings are an extremely important and effective part of the leadership development training that Grand Aspirations provides to program leaders.  In addition to covering topics from anti-oppression to project development, participants will also have the opportunity to learn from (and become friends with!) the other amazing program leaders running projects in other locations.  This is really the grand kick-off to our new year of projects, and we couldn’t be more excited!

Curious what past program leaders have said about January Gatherings?  Check-out last year’s blog post from the Middleton Summer of Solutions team as they reflected on their experience.

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Capping Off the Summer

August Gathering was a fantastic cap off to my Summer of Solutions (SoS). I arrived to this gathering confused about the purpose of SoS and my experience in Portland. Now that we’re done, I’m less confused and more resolved in my future objectives.

August Gathering began Monday in a Lutheran Church somewhere in Hartford, CT. Program leaders and volunteers from every nook and cranny of the US participated in sustainability workshops, agenda planning sessions, and urban farming tours. It was a gathering of different accents and experiences that created and shared a common vision.

What I ultimately learned from all this is that sustainability is a value I support, but it isn’t a cause I plan to actively participate in. However, I do plan to keep in touch with the friends I’ve made here and to offer what little I can to the Portland SoS program over the next year.

What really affected me here is the way we ate this week. Many of the participants who worked on farms brought with them a heap of tasty vegetables. Previous to this week, I’ve never spent one without eating meat—and vegetables have always just been an addition to my meal, never the centerpiece. Now I’m seriously considering a vegetarian diet because this week we ate like royalty. It’s nan-sense how good we ate (an inside joke, har har har), and I’m ecstatic to implement this change in my life.

The two discussions I attended and appreciated most were about how to incorporate different people into sustainability initiatives. We all agreed the lack of diversity in sustainability activism is not progressive; yet none of us had an idea of how to become effectively inclusive–it’s still a work in progress. Through discussion, I learned there are ways, difficult as they may be, to incorporate diverse groups of people and to help impacted communities. I might seek further opportunities with the Portland hub during the year.

The best part of this gathering is all the connections and friends I’ve made. I don’t know what will become of them or how they’ll be involved in my life in the future, but I’m hopeful something special will result from being involved with such an ambitious, inspiring, and brilliant group of people.

So the future is still ambiguous for me, but from this gathering, I’m certain to be involved with sustainability initiatives in some capacity in the future, to visit friends in different areas of the US, and to live a healthier, environmentally friendly lifestyle. I’d say this gathering was a success. Thanks again, Grand Aspirations!


Been waiting to start growing your own food?

Start today! Track down some healthy soil, exchange some change for seeds at your grocery store, and find some old newspaper. Tony will show you were to take it from there.

A Time of Transition

By Casey Wojtalewicz

My introduction to Summer of Solutions was in 2010, when I was a full-time participant in the Twin Cities program. As it has done for hundreds of other young people, the program and its model of cyclical empowerment transformed my self-identity from something akin to “just another student” to an organizer / agent of change / Solutionary.

Me reading goals as a participant in the 2010 Twin Cities Summer of Solutions program.

Fast forward two years: I’m sitting in a classroom at LA CAUSA (Los Angeles Communities Advocating Unity, Social Justice and Action) in East LA. I’m helping lead the LA CAUSA Summer of Solutions program. We’re at week two, having wrapped up our training launch last week. I’m sitting in on a meeting of our clean energy team as they lay out the groundwork to bring community-owned solar panels to this area. Several weeks ago, I knew none of these people. Now we operate together in well-constructed and organized teams. We’ve created shared visions, set goals to help us achieve our vision, and outlined steps to get there–literally.

Pam, Maite, Tony & Miguel during LA CAUSA SOS’s training week.

It’s a sunny day outside in this industrial part of town. A lot of trucks pass by on the roads. It’s busy. Everything’s moving. The crosswalks usually don’t give enough time for one to walk casually across the streets. Concrete is everywhere. But there’s a cool breeze. I can see the San Gabriel mountains in the distance, and large white clouds are slowly moving across the sky to the north. Inside LA CAUSA, we are laying out plans to create a healthy environment that works for everyone. Everything’s moving.

It feels to be a great time of transition for our planet. I recognize the conflicts and challenges we face today as profound opportunities for transformation. I can feel the potential and momentum building up for change across the city, the state, the country, the world; just like I can feel it building in this very room. And as a Summer of Solutions affiliate, I feel connected to people feeling and doing the same things across the United States right now.

Some LA Solutionaries

Surrounded by these other young people who are turning ideas and visions into reality, I feel the completion of a cycle. Two years ago, I was given the inspiration and skills to become an agent of change. Today, I have given them, and the cycle continues.

This is what the world changing looks like. There’s a feeling of transition, of momentous energy. Like clouds moving on a windy day. People are coming together, working to make changes in their lives and their immediate surroundings.

It feels wonderful to be a part of it.

A Beautiful Day in Portland

Last week our Portland Enrichment team divided into sub groups so we could have a few people focus on particular goals that we wanted to achieve by the end of the summer.  At our meeting we brought out a large, white sheet of paper that we filled out from launch week. On the paper were certain job descriptions such as Media, Community Events, Data Management, and Contacting Partners.

Each category had a leader and one or two other people to help out the leader in that category as well. This structure allowed individuals to focus on what they want to do as well as maintain a balance of power between everybody.

At the meeting we also decided who will be facilitating the next meeting, who would be doing a confluence call with other programs nationwide, and discuss our shifts for working at the farmers market that Sunday.

Sunday was our group’s first time at the farmers market and we were able to have a tent and table set up for us. At our table, we had a poster size map of the Lents area and we asked people at the farmers market what their favorite place in the Lents area was.  When people decided on a favorite place, they would write it on a sticky note and place it on the map wherever the place happened to be.

We got a lot of responses and our map became full of colorful sticky notes. People really took pride in where they live and what they like to do in the area. In fact, many people said their favorite place was the farmers market that we were currently at.

After asking residents what their favorite place was, we asked them if they would like to take our survey. Many people decided to take the survey because they were already talking about all the things they liked in the neighborhood. We received a lot of input from people at the farmers market and I’m excited to see/talk to more people the next time our group goes and maybe even see some of the people that we that were at the market last time.

At the end of the day, we accumulated about 15 surveys and had the pleasure of watching and talking to a variety of people. The farmers market offers something for people of all ages and is a great place to spend the day, especially in the summer, here in Portland.