Late Bloomers

Over the past few weeks in Arleta, we have been prepping for a Summer of Solutions where our focus will be community involvement in the city of Arleta and the surrounding cities (Pacoima, Panorama City, Van Nuys.) We have been reaching out to parents, students, and teachers at the garden where we have received support.

We are reminded that the garden would not have been possible without the help from the 10 volunteers and the 80 hours that we all have dedicated. We only hope for anyone who eyes the garden to think briefly that people in the community care and want to create a space for children to visually see the beauty, and the gifts that this earth continues to bless us with. Kids are asking questions about the garden and if they can help watering the garden. That is enough to keep the children engaged in something that can show them about how nature works. Continue reading

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Improving the Soil

The ground beneath our feet

East Tennessee red clay soil.

If a person puts a shovel in the ground almost anywhere in the South, like as not, they will bring up red clay soil.  In East Tennessee it is a bright, redish orange and it supports a thriving brick making industry in my hometown.  Show it to a professional grower and you’ll get a strong negative reaction.  Clay is no good, they’ll say.  You’re better off digging it up and buying topsoil, whatever that might cost.  Our soil is dense, easily compacted, often waterlogged and quite acidic.  In the spring, it is cold and boggy.  In the summer, it can bake so hard that roots have no chance to grow through it.

Transforming the native soil into something more friable takes a lot of patience, hard work and respect for natural processes.  It is often worth the effort, as improved clay soil will hold nutrients and moisture far better than its sandy counterpart.  I don’t mean for this blog post to be about the technical aspects of improving soil—I just want you to know more about the ground we are standing on here.

Continue reading

Listening to the Community

Summer of Solutions Ithaca continues to be hard at work with both fundraising and program development. It’s been a busy month for us… we’ve spent late nights furiously typing away on google docs for a grant application, spent hours on conference calls figuring out programming and application criteria, and tossed emails back and forth about housing decisions.

After spending many hours together trying to articulate our personal visions of program outcomes, key learnings, and goals for the project, we realized that our program and our community could benefit from a youth listening project. A listening project is a powerful organizing tool for nonviolent social change. A listening project builds trust and channels of communication within a community. It is a positive and sustainable form of community engagement that strengthens the ties people have to each other. It makes our communities more resistant and resilient to threats and injustices. By conducing a listening project and training for it in conjunction with our training institute, we can lay the groundwork for young people to engage in our community for future projects, actions, and communications around hydraulic fracturing, race, class, and other difficult topics.  Continue reading

Inspiration to Join Summer of Solutions 2013 by April 14th!

The 2013 Summer of Solutions programs are accepting participant applications until April 14th!  Apply here!  Keep reading to learn about the life-changing experience that Summer of Solutions was for our alumni!

1Emily Stiever: “It was one of the first times where I could see what my life could look like in the future: the ability to work on social issues that I cared about and to live sustainably in community with people who shared a similar passion.” Read more…

1Ashley Trull: “I learned how to have creative confidence, which to me is being willing to put yourself and your ideas out there, boldly, knowing that you have the skills and resources within yourself and your community to make it a reality.” Read more…

1Nathaniel Cook: “Summer of Solutions was probably the most influential experience that I have ever had, and it has shaped me, my experiences, and my relationships ever since.” Read more…

1Shoshana Blank: “Even as young college students, we were able to do some big things in Summer of Solutions-Twin Cities because we were well organized. We could offer solutions to community members and be taken seriously because we had a plan of action and materials to back us up.”  Read more…

1Colin Higgins: “One of the main things that I took away is that I really enjoy teaching others, especially youth, about environmental issues and solutions.” Read more…

1Cecelia Watkins: “The greatest thing I took with me was a deep sense of practical empowerment—a sense that money is far from the only resource we can leverage for change, a sense that we are rich in those other resources.” Read more…

1Brianna Besch: “I still remember the first week of Summer of Solutions training as one of the most inspiring things I have ever done.” Read more…

2Ethan Viets-Vanlear: “SoS really taught me a way to help a community without being part of various systems of oppression and control that dominate most organizations and institutions in our society.” Read more…

Inspired yet?
Become a solutionary and apply to join Summer of Solutions 2013!

During the Summer of Solutions, you will receive training in community organizing and sustainable community development techniques. You will use these skills to demonstrate the promise of energy efficiency, community-based energy, green industry, local food production, and/or smart design as described in the locations you choose. Beyond the concrete skills you learn, Summer of Solutions will be a really fun community-based experience. It is a great chance to grow with, learn from, and work with other incredible young people and community leaders who are building a better future.

Now accepting participant applications: Arleta, CA; Chicago, IL; Hartford, CT; Iowa City, IA; Ithaca, NY; Johnson City, TN; Lexington, KY; Little Rock, AR; Middleton, WI; Oakland, CA; Raleigh, NC; Southern West Virginia; Twin Cities, MN; and Washington, DC!

Applications are due on 4/14/2013. Some programs may keep their local applications open beyond 4/14, but there is no guarantee that any specific program will do so.

Find more details and the online application here!

Alumni Spotlight: Shoshana Blank

Hello!  My name is Shoshana Blank.  I went to St. Olaf College and participated in the Summer of Solutions in 2009.  I joined SoS because I wanted to get involved in the Twin Cities community with students from other colleges. Also, I was so passionate about trying to create solutions to climate change, I knew from the title of the program that I wanted to be a part of it. I think that I found out about the program through an email from the Environmental Coalition at St. Olaf.

2 Even as young college students, we were able to do some big things in Summer of Solutions-Twin Cities because we were well organized. We could offer solutions to community members and be taken seriously because we had a plan of action and materials to back us up. I am specifically thinking about Cooperative Energy Futures, with structured meetings, a nice website, and a good business model.  I have so many good memories of my time with SoS, and I particularly love my memories from the potlucks we would have, at least once a week. It was such a good way to create community! Continue reading

Rooting DC!

By: Josephine Chu

For the past 6 years, multiple community organizations, spearheaded by DC Greens, in Washington, DC have worked together to host a day-long gardening forum called Rooting DC to educate residents about urban food production and consumption to cultivate health and protect the environment.  It is a really wonderful resource for all those interested in learning more about gardening, composting, garden design, school gardens, fruit trees, organic pest management, seed saving, cooking with kids, and so on.  This year, the conference organized workshops around five tracks: eat it (cooking and food preservation techniques), teach it (learn ways to share what you know with others), start it (gardening basics), grow it (advanced gardening skills), and the big picture (workshops about how gardening fits into the broader landscape).

In addition to all the workshops, Rooting DC also provides an opportunity for community organizations to table and offer information about the work that they are doing around gardening, food, health, justice, etc.  This year, our project, Cultivating Intergenerational Leaders, had the opportunity to table and provide conference attendees with information about the summer program that we are planning and ways that interested people can become involved.  It was an awesome opportunity to reach out to a ton of people (as more than 800 people registered!) and develop deeper relationships with other organizations with similar missions in the community.  The conference gave me (Josephine) and Jeremiah an opportunity to discuss further with Sasha Bruce Youthwork and Beet Street Gardens what our partnership with the two organizations would look like to organize and run a summer program for youth around food justice issues. Continue reading

Alumni Spotlight: Nathaniel Cook

Hello! My name is Nathaniel Cook, and I participated in Summer of Solutions in 2009.  I became involved in SoS after having a discussion with Summer of Solutions leaders at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Forum at St. Olaf College.  I left the conversation thinking that SoS would be an informative experience that would allow me to grow as a young, student leader while making real, substantive change in how we, as a society, approach environmental sustainability. The experience proved to exceed all of my expectations.

Through SoS, I developed the skills necessary to talk about sustainability-related issues with people from all walks of life, and gained the knowledge and confidence necessary to do so. Summer of Solutions also gave me a new, better-informed perspective on environmental and social issues that helped formulate my values. My favorite memory is working alongside students who exemplified what it meant to be well informed, proactive, and inspiring young leaders.  Their mentorship empowered me to meet with community leaders and develop plans for collaboration.  I was so inspired by my experience that when I returned to my college campus as a sophomore in the fall, I helped lead an environmental movement that changed the campus’ ethos and physical operations. By engaging our peers, we helped start the campus’ first student-led organic garden, an “eco-house” for student living, improved campus operations, and made sustainability one of the core focuses of the college and its curriculum. Continue reading