Health, Engaged Activism and Learning

HEAL is a consciousness-raising group using the school garden I helped to sprout to life, alongside Gardeneers and Vanderpoel Elementary School, to educate and empower young students and community members on the South Side of Chicago through a program bolstering health, education, and activism.


A world centered around health. A school garden that grows bountiful of produce, including watermelon, collard greens, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and more, all filling the cars and kitchens of parents, teachers, and community members. Food that brings an oasis to purported food deserts on the South Side. A school garden that provides the foundation for a school garden club, where students meet several times a week to discuss future projects, including beehives and greenhouses, maintain the garden during the summer months, plan fundraising events and engage students in the school. A school garden that, bi-weekly, provides the space for trained educators to teach students about food justice, urban agriculture, environmental science and more. A school garden that provides the meeting place young black women to organize, meet and heal over storytelling, writing, and journal as a means to increase the self-esteem and confidence and inner workings of young black women. A school garden that has provided the foundation for a transformation of how we interact with each other, with food and especially with the food we put into our bodies.

A world centered around education. An educational component that supplements the previously ineffectual Chicago Public School education to provide a holistic educational experience for young black youth in the city. An education on growing food, which can be taken back to their homes to multiply the spaces we have providing sustenance for life. Field trips that take students out of the class and out into the world; field trips to local urban farms such as Sweet Water Foundation, to aquaponics centers such as The Plant Chicago, and to museums of science such as Shedd Aquarium. An education that taps into the potential of all learning styles, where at the Hyde Park Arts Center, students can merge what they’re learning with urban agriculture and the environment with mediums such as painting and photography. An education that is reciprocal, where students are taking what they’re learning and engaging with their parents at home, surveying them about their opinions on climate change, food accessibility and more. An education that engages young people in a manner that conventional education cannot or has not.

A world centered around engaging youth with activism. Youth who are engaged and involved with the problems affecting their respective communities, cities, and planet at large. Engaging with youth to empower them to create petitions, create photography projects and create films that bring awareness and public consciousness to the problems that affect them most. Engaging students who are writing letters to their local alderman and representatives to provide more funding for garden programs, after school programs, etc. Engaging with students to increase access to the political system that. A program that takes students, provides the knowledge, power, and tools, and allows them to be the change makers we need in society to transform the world.

Finally, the success of the pilot of the first year of the programs sets the foundation for support from other organizations to continue. The yearlong program will culmination in a community gathering event in which all that students. Videos, poetry, art showings, and fundraiser event to inspire the Chicago community to commit and support, through donations, the program so that we can get it going another year. With my resourcefulness, I have no doubt that my passion for youth, the environment, and Chicago will transpire into a program that is sustained into the entirety of the existence of the Vanderpoel School Garden.

From the narrative above, our target objectives are to double the amount of produce growing, provide urban agriculture, environmental and social justice education, develop and maintain the garden club, empower students by allowing them to create and construct, and finally culminate with a celebration, inviting the school, staff, students and community members to learn about the HEAL program to support the project in the coming years. This narrative above is the vision; the HEAL program and the support from the Samuel Huntington Public Service Award are the vehicles and streams to bring that alive.

2018 events:

  • Month-long summer program with 7 girls, managing school garden

  • The Hate U Give movie trip and discussion

  • Michelle Obama Becoming Book Tour and Discussion

  • 3 black&well events, engaging community on topics of yoga, food access, and mindfulness

  • HEAL Holiday Party

2019 planned events:

  • Shedd Aquarium

  • HEAL Hack-a-thon

  • Student yoga/wellness

  • HEAL Earth Day Urban Farm Tour

  • HEAL Picnic by the lake

  • Garden Party (launch of new garden season)

  • Garden summer series (lead by HEAL girls)

  • Sailing outing

HEAL is funded in thanks to a generous grant from the Samuel Huntington Public Service award.