They are picking up skills they can use for a lifetime while working to solve a community problem. Real life problems need real life solutions, and one big issue in the East Garfield Park community is lack of access to fresh produce. A group of teens is pitching in to help change that as they learn to "live green."
Deontay Crump, 17, has been up to his elbows in soil all summer. He says constant weeding and watering through drought conditions are worth it to see vegetables grow in the garden.
"I didn't really get the chance to do anything like gardening for all of my life. When this came along i was like this is a perfect opportunity to go and get my hands dirty," said Crump.
Crump is one of several Marshall High School students who have helped turn a nearby vacant lot into a produce garden. It's part of a collaboration between after school matters and Urban Habitat Chicago, a group that provides hands-on training in environmental issues and urban agriculture.
"We're looking to be able to grow food and then deliver food to people in this neighborhood that sometimes don't have access to really high quality, nutritious produce," said Michael Repkin of Urban Habitat Chicago.
Students are also learning concepts of sustainability, including how to turn other people's trash into functional items. They are seeing how the work of their hands could impact the entire community.
"I think if a teenager grows things in the garden, then they'll be more willing to eat what they've grown than go to the store and buy a bag of chips," said Jasmyne Crump, 16.
Urban Habitat Chicago will have access to that lot for at least the next three years. Next summer, they hope to add some fruit trees and bushes to their garden.