Tag Archives: youth

VolunTEEN: What the Future Looks Like

Emily headshotGuest Post by Emily McAndrew,
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Emily McAndrew, a rising junior at Merrol Hyde Magnet School, is one of the four inaugural Summer Youth Leaders. During the four summer service weeks, Emily leads service learning opportunities that address hunger.

When thinking of the future, many adults fear that the new generation is too lazy, too self-centered, or too unenthusiastic to lead the nation. But in spending the past three weeks around teens who voluntarily give up their time to serve others, I can say without a doubt that this generation is ready to build a bright future.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on the day of my first project. I was worried that the teens wouldn’t like me or that they wouldn’t listen to me. But as the volunteers came in, my fears were diminished. They were all here to serve and have fun just like myself!

I have led kids from all different backgrounds. Most of them have volunteered at multiple HON VolunTEEN projects. Through getting to work with these teens at different times, I have gotten to know some of them pretty well. Each volunteer brings a different aspect to the group, but I have learned that they each share one thing in common: a desire to make a difference.

Although the nation may have a preconceived notion that all teenagers are unfit to be the leaders of tomorrow, I have learned differently. I have met the most hard-working and selfless youth working with HON. These volunteers are our future.

Learn more about HON’s youth leader programs here!

Youth volunteers taking a quick break at Second Harvest Food Bank.
Youth volunteers taking a quick break at Second Harvest Food Bank.

Notes from the Farm: Summertime Activity in Full Swing

By Josh Corlew, Hands On Nashville Urban Agriculture Program Manager

Crop City participants show off some of the recently-harvested garlic

Welcome to summer!

We hope all of you had a wonderful Fourth of July holiday in the company of good friends, loving family, and (of course) delicious food!

Out at the Farm, these long summer days and warm summer nights are translating into a big growth spurt for many of our crops. Plenty of garlic has already been pulled, the tomatoes and peppers will provide a steady harvest for the next month and a half, our sunflowers are beaming, and the bush beans are taking off like wildfire.

There have also been some pretty significant changes made on the grounds of the Urban Farm over the course of the past month or so as well. Most notably, we have completed installation of the Butterfly Garden between our vegetable fields. This beautiful space will provide a great habitat for all of the beneficial insects that help make our vegetables healthy and happy. We encourage visitors to come enjoy the view of the new garden from one of the nearby swing sets!

Apprentices lead Crop City participants through a brainstorming game.
Apprentices lead Crop City participants through a brainstorming game.

As we mentioned in our last update, the summer youth development program Crop City is in full swing and will continue to take place every weekday until July 19. Over 200 youth come out to the Farm every week to participate in Crop City and learn about sustainable growing and the importance of healthy eating.

Overseeing all of this activity and leading the programming for Crop City is our talented team of 15 Urban Farm Apprentices. Our Apprentices have been doing an amazing job running the program and engaging Crop City campers while also gaining valuable leadership skills, and the program certainly would not be the success that it is without them!

Click here to learn more about each of these outstanding high school students who are making a real difference this summer.

Sifting compost is just one of many activities planned for the upcoming Urban Farm Summer Camp.
Sifting compost is just one of many activities planned for the upcoming Urban Farm Summer Camp.

Finally, we will be offering an Urban Farm Summer Camp program from July 22 to July 26 for 9- to 13-year old boys and girls. This curriculum for this camp will be very similar to that of Crop City, and it will also be led by our Apprentices. Participants will be immersed in an experienced-based learning environment full of delicious vegetables, colorful flowers, and a variety of fun and educational games. We’d love to have you join us for this fun and educational experience so click here to learn more and sign up!

And of course, if you have any other questions about the Urban Farm, please email me at josh@hon.org. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Farm updates throughout the growing season!


josh2Josh Corlew is Hands On Nashville’s Urban Agriculture Program Manager. He oversees the organization’s efforts to engage volunteers in service opportunities that empower them to gain gardening skills, learn about healthy eating choices, and help address our city’s food access issues. An AmeriCorps alumnus, Josh also has a secret past life as a Trekkie (he’s a big fan of the TV series Star Trek, for the uninitiated among us), and he has been known to participate in death-defying canoe trips.

VolunTEEN: The Pencil Foundation

Runze headshotGuest Post by Runze Zhang,
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Runze Zhang, a rising junior at Martin Luther King High Academic Magnet School, is one of four inaugural  Summer Youth Leaders. During the four summer service weeks, Runze leads service learning opportunities that address health and wellness.

Leading volunteer projects has been wonderful to say the least. The opportunities provided by Hands On Nashville have allowed me to develop leadership skills and form friendships as well.

My projects revolve around health and wellness, which I am most interested in. In addition to sharing information about healthy living with others, I have learned some valuable lessons on the topic myself.

One of my best experiences so far was sorting school supplies with the Pencil Foundation, during which I focused on mental health. All of the volunteers served eagerly and diligently and showed great teamwork. Although they were all under the age of eighteen, the volunteers understood the purpose and importance of the project — providing free school supplies to teachers. Kim, the Pencil Foundation project supervisor, infected everyone with her enthusiasm and motivated me to continue working with the foundation.

After leading several projects as a youth leader for Hands On Nashville, I have realized my passion for volunteering and helping others, and they are both things that I hope to maintain for the rest of my life.

Learn more about HON’s VolunTEEN program here!

Volunteers sort donated school supplies for the Pencil Foundation.

VolunTEEN: Seeing the Yield of Your Crop

Emily headshotGuest Post by Emily McAndrew,
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Emily McAndrew, a rising junior at Merrol Hyde Magnet School, wanted to be a Summer Youth Leader so that she could learn how to be a better leader while helping others. Emily chose to focus on hunger because she wants to teach youth that the issue is not just something that exists in developing countries.

When volunteering, if you aren’t working directly with the person or people you are helping, it can be difficult to fully grasp the impact of your efforts.

While organizing food in the freezing coolers of the Second Harvest Food Bank as an HON Summer Youth Leader, I did not realize how much my work and the work of my fellow volunteers truly meant until I got to work at the East Nashville Cooperative Ministry (ENCM), a recipient of food donations from Second Harvest.

ENCM’s mission is to improve health and welfare of the residents of the East Nashville community. They do this by offering healthy meals, food, and other necessities to people in the area. The ministry is one of two recipients of Second Harvest that do not accept cakes or dessert items.

My group has helped in the garden and has cooked for the clients of ENCM. My favorite part of the projects was to help cook. The food that is cooked is a combination of produce from the garden and donated items from Second Harvest. It is so cool to think that the food I was preparing one day could have been the same food that I was organizing the day before! What I have learned from my experiences so far as a Summer Youth Leader is that volunteering always has an impact on someone, whatever the task may be. I urge everyone in the community to volunteer and make their own impact.

Learn more about HON’s VolunTEEN program here!

Volunteers preparing some amazing burgers!
Volunteers preparing some amazing burgers!

VolunTEEN: The Importance of Appreciation

Corey headshotGuest Post by Corey Wu,
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Corey Wu, a rising junior at John Overton High School, is one of the four inaugural Summer Youth Leaders. During the four summer service weeks, Corey leads service learning opportunities that address homelessness.

My experience with Hands On Nashville so far has been an inspirational and altogether self-reflecting journey. The time that I’ve spent with the youth volunteers who are helping out at the Rescue Mission or at the Nashville Food Project has restored my faith in volunteerism in this day of age. Seeing the happiness from the homeless as they receive meals from the determined volunteers warms my heart.

On my first day as a volunteer leader, I was meticulous in my preparations prior to the arrival of the volunteers. I was a bit uneasy because the Rescue Mission was a whole new environment that I had no prior experience in, and I was unsure how everything would turn out. However, as the session began I met Kim, a staffer at the Rescue Mission, who created an altruistic environment for all of her guests and regulars. Her positive attitude and outlook gave me a sense of perseverance that persuaded me to continue to strive for the best and motivate all of the volunteers who made the day possible.

As the day went by and the food line began to slow down, I began to appreciate the value of volunteering and realize the importance of doing so. I learned that volunteering is not just about picking up roadside litter or planting a tree, it’s about helping others.

Learn more about HON’s VolunTEEN program here!

Corey and two of his fellow volunteers in the kitchen.
Corey and two of his fellow volunteers in the kitchen.

Introducing the 2013 Urban Agriculture Fellows

By Alison Duncan, HON Urban Agriculture Program VISTA

The whole group poses for the camera. From left to right:
The whole group poses for the camera. From left to right: Sara Shaghaghi, Lydea Adkins, Daniel Pannock, Chloe Vaccaro, Michael Ding, Janie Liu, Audaris Blades, Rachel West, Nick Dietrich, Natalie Beck, Josh Corlew, and me (Alison Duncan).

It may still be cold outside, but the Hands On Nashville Urban Agriculture Program is already heating up with the launch of our newest program: the Urban Agriculture Fellowship! This unique service-learning opportunity places ten high school students at nonprofit gardens across Nashville.

After a highly competitive application process last fall, ten outstanding young people were selected to serve as the inaugural class of Urban Agriculture Fellows. These inspiring students have already proven themselves to be real rock stars, having completed an intense two-day training session over the winter break. Throughout the spring, they will attend monthly workshops here at HON that will help them acquire the project development, volunteer management, public speaking, and organizational skills needed to become effective community leaders. Without further ado, I am very excited to introduce you to the Fellows:

The fellows get to know each other on the first day of training.
The fellows get to know each other on the first day of training.

Audaris Blades – A senior at Glencliff High School, Audaris is actively involved in a number of service clubs at his school. He is also an athlete, playing on both the tennis and baseball teams at Glencliff. His fellowship project will be at the HON Urban Farm.

Chloe Vaccaro – Chloe is a junior at MLK Magnet High School. She is captain of her school softball team and participated in the Urban Farm Apprenticeship program this past summer. Chloe will be at Good Food for Good People for her fellowship project.

Daniel Pannock – Daniel is a junior at University School of Nashville. He has recently cultivated an interest in gardening through his work at the Outdoor Academy and as a member of USN’s Environmental Club. Daniel will be working at the Perk Garden.

Janie Liu – A junior at MLK Magnet High School, Janie is passionate about the environmental impacts of our food system. She swims on the MLK swim team and has a small garden at home. She will be working at the Martha O’Bryan Center.

Lydea Adkins – Lydea is a freshman at Nashville School of the Arts. She is very involved in the Harvest Hands WOW soap program and is an avid reader. Additionally, she is the oldest of seven siblings, which keeps her pretty busy. Lydea will be working at Good Food for Good People.

Michael Ding – A junior at MLK Magnet High School, Michael is a committed environmentalist. He is a core member of his school’s Green Club and is a coalition ambassador for Tennyen, a youth-led environmental group. Michael will be working at the Perk Garden.

Natalie Beck – Natalie is a junior at Brentwood High School, where she is a Student Council member. She is an artist, and often integrates her talents into whatever projects she is working on. Natalie’s fellowship placement is at the BELL Garden.

Nick Dietrich – Nick is a senior at MLK Magnet High School. He enjoys nature and being outdoors, and is interested in learning more about agriculture as a possible career path. Nick will be working at the HON Urban Farm.

Rachel West –A junior at Brentwood High School, Rachel plays a variety of sports, including lacrosse and cross country. She is interested in starting her own nonprofit, and has worked in gardens in the past. Rachel’s fellowship placement is the Martha O’Bryan Center.

Sara Shaghaghi – Sara is a junior at MLK Magnet High School, where she is a key member of her school’s swim team. She is currently pursuing her Gold Award in the Girl Scouts. Sara will be working at The BELL Garden for her fellowship project.

Stay tuned for updates on the good work these high school students will be doing this spring, including how you can get involved and support their service project.


Alison is a born and bred Tar Heel, having lived in North Carolina for most of her life. She serves as HON’s Urban Agriculture Program VISTA and oversees youth programming at the Urban Farm.  Alison can tie her shoes in 2 seconds flat.


Notes from the Farm: A Recipe for Positive Youth Development

By Adams Carroll, AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Urban Agriculture Program –

Chef Kristin Beringson
Chef Kristin Beringson shows Summer Camp Kids how to make fresh salsa.

Last week we were fortunate to have two esteemed visitors to Youth Service Camp at the Hands On Nashville Urban Farm. Our friends at Nashville Originals organized cooking demonstrations for our campers led by Chef Kristin Beringson of the Holland House Bar and Refuge and Chef Tony Galzin of Flyte World Dining and Wine. Both chefs came with simple, tasty recipes highlighting the astounding seasonal flavors of the produce the campers helped to grow this summer. I hope a few of our campers are inspired to try these recipes at home! Several of the campers told me they tried squash for the first time in these dishes… and they liked it!

Our campers were impressed by our guest chefs’ knife skills and infectious love for their craft. I was too, but something else really moved me. I was so inspired by the volunteer spirit that our guests exhibited. It was clear to me that they both are driven to make our community a more vibrant place to live through their service. In sharing their skills and experience in a simple cooking demonstration, these chefs did much more than toss together a tasty garden salad. They also modeled positive behavior and served as role models for our campers. I won’t be surprised if, 10 years from now, Nashville’s hottest new chef shares her story of being inspired to choose her profession because of Chef Beringson and Galzin’s

Chef Galzin
Chef Galzin shows kids how to blanch vegetables and create an easy summer salad.

service last week.

After his demonstration, I remarked to Chef Galzin that he did a really good job of engaging his youth audience during his demonstration (more photos here). He told me that as the oldest of four brothers, he learned early on how to maintain young peoples’ attention levels. However, another experience uniquely prepared him to be a good role model for young people at the Urban Farm.

Before moving to Nashville, Chef Galzin volunteered with the Spark Program in Chicago, which connects hundreds of students with apprenticeships in their dream field. It was clear to me that Chef Galzin’s experience working as a mentor with Spark taught him how to bring out the best in our youth by nurturing their curiosity and giving them opportunities to use their ingenuity, creativity, and skills to overcome challenges. I am of the opinion that our society chronically underestimates the abilities of youth. Programs like Spark give kids an opportunity to prove to themselves and the world that they are able to accomplish great things.

Inspired by the chefs, Summer Camp kids make their own salad variations and share ideas with each other.

All of this got me thinking about the principles of positive youth development – principles I had in mind when developing the curriculum for our Youth Service Camp and Apprenticeship program (Farmer Josh introduced the Apprentices back in June). I wanted to make sure that we weren’t just creating a program to keep kids busy between school semesters, but rather one that is an opportunity for young people to live purposefully by contributing to our community in meaningful ways and building valuable life skills.

If you have ever despaired for the future of this world, then I challenge you to take note of the amazing things our youth apprentices and campers have been able to accomplish when asked to take an active role in creating their experiences in an environment that is supportive and safe. Together, these young people have turned five acres of floodway into a productive, beautiful Urban Farm that grows healthy produce for members of our community who need it most. Trust me, our future is in good hands!

A native Nashvillian, Adams Carroll serves as AmeriCorps VISTA Member for HON’s Urban Agriculture Program. He oversees the development of the Urban Farm Apprenticeship and Summer Youth Service Camp program. A bicycling enthusiast and dedicated bike commuter, Adams is a volunteer with Walk/Bike Nashville, the Oasis Center, and Free Bike Shop. His longest bike ride? 3,500 miles across 14 states.

Introducing the Urban Farm Summer Apprentices

By Josh Corlew, HON Urban Agriculture Program Manager –

This week brings a very exciting new addition to the farm: our apprentices! I’m so excited about the team of eight youth apprentices that we have training with us right now. They went through a rigorous application and interview process and I’m convinced that every one of them is up to the challenging and fun season that we have ahead of us.

This summer HON Urban Farm apprentices will lead groups of up to 60 of their peers through a curriculum around agriculture, the food system, and healthy eating. They will be the leaders of our Youth Summer Camp held at the Urban Farm. I want to dedicate the rest of this post to introducing our awesome new team.

Meet the HON Urban Farm Apprentices (in alphabetical order):

Photo of Ashley
Meet Ashley! She loves dance.

Ashley attends Glencliff High Schooland helps tutor math. She’s very active in dance classes and enjoys a wide variety of dance styles including tap, jazz, and ballet.

Photo of Chloe
Chloe is captain of her varsity softball team.

Chloe attends MLK Academic Magnet High Schoolwhere she is active in Beta Club. A softball player, Chloe is on the varsity team where she also serves as captain.

Photo of Evie
Evie has been in several plays at her school and The Nashville Children’s Theater.

Evie attends Hume Fogg High School. She’s very interested in drama and has participated in many plays at her school as well as productions at The Nashville Children’s Theater. An active member of her church’s youth group, Evie also has helped to organize the CROP (Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty) walk for the past several years.

Photo of Jazmin
Jazmin aspires to be a professional chef.

Jazmin attends Glencliff High School and is all about the extracurriculars. Her resume is chocked full of participation in service and cultural groups including Latinas Unidas, Rise Above Hate, Jump Study Foundation, and United Nations, just to name a few. She offers her bilingual talents as a translator for after-school tutoring programs, and aspires to be a professional chef!

Photo of Maria
Maria is an active member of the Glencliff High garden club.

Maria attends Glencliff High school where she is very active in many clubs including the Garden Club (yay!), ITOP, Beta Club, Teens United, and United Nations. Maria has also worked with the Oasis Center and hopes to continue to grow in her leadership abilities this summer.

Photo of Maynan
Maynan’s name means “shining moon.”

Maynan attends McGavock High School and has been in the U.S. for about seven years. She enjoys helping out with a Bantu summer camp in her free time. In her native country, Kenya, her name means “shining of the moon”.

Photo of Saida
Saida enjoys tutoring kids in Nashville’s Bantu community.

Saida is a student at McGavock High School. She likes to tutor kids in the Bantu community in after-school programs and is also actively involved with Catholic Charities. Saida has experience growing food from her days in Africa, and we’re excited to learn from her this summer!

Photo of TJ
TJ has experience in designing and building garden beds out of cob.

TJ has just graduated from Glencliff High School. While he was there he was a part ofthe Garden Club and an Engineering class in which he helped design and build garden beds out of cob. While TJ has many talents, one of his favorite activities is parkour.

It has been a pleasure getting to know these remarkable young people over the past week, and we are really looking forward to a rich summer of learning, growing, and teaching.

Urban Farm Progress!

By Josh Corlew
Hands On Nashville Urban Agriculture Program Manager

The past month has been such an exciting one out on the Urban Farm! Here are some of the cool things that have happened:

Two boys pair up to spread wood chips for garden pathways on Global Youth Service Day 2012. Nice work, boys.

Grand Opening! On April 21, we celebrated Global Youth Service Day by having the official launch of the Hands On Nashville Urban Farm. Hundreds of youth, Starbucks partners, and neighbors came out to show their support and volunteer. We created rain gardens, made signs for our trees and veggies, made wood chip paths, dug an irrigation ditch, and had a blast doing it!

Water access – We’ve been waiting on planting most of our vegetables until we had a reliable source of water. Just last week we got the water turned on, and now we can water all our trees, flowers, and vegetables. They are much happier now!

Compost – We’ve been experimenting with different composting containers. Here are some volunteers helping us test out the latest version:

compost pic
Farmer Josh tries out a new compost method.

Planting – We didn’t waste any time getting our plants in the ground as soon as we knew we could water them! We’ve put in tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, watermelon, kale, mustard, broccoli, cabbage, arugula, beans, corn, and a wide variety of herbs and flowers. We’ve also mulched most of our new sprouts so we can keep them cool and damp in this crazy hot weather.

Volunteers dig some paths for irrigation on the Urban Farm. The water supply is now fully here!

Apprentices – This summer we’re hiring eight youth apprentices to help us lead a curriculum-based youth camp. We’re in the final stages of selecting the apprentices, so we’ll be able to announce them soon!

There’s so much to do out at the farm, and I hope you’ll be able to join us for an upcoming project! Check out the available times for this month here.

Learn more about Hands On Nashville’s Urban Agriculture Program here.

Josh Corlew is Hands On Nashville’s Urban Agriculture Program Manager. He oversees the organization’s efforts to engage volunteers in service opportunities that empower them to gain gardening skills, learn about healthy eating choices, and help address our city’s food access issues. In 2011, Josh developed and implemented an urban garden program at PERK Urban Farm, in partnership with Trevecca University, that engaged 1,000+ volunteers and produced 700+ pounds of food on a 2.5-acre plot of land. An AmeriCorps alumnus, Josh also has a secret past life as a Trekkie (he’s a big fan of the TV series Star Trek, for the uninitiated among us), and he has been known to participate in death-defying canoe trips.

* Top and bottom photos courtesy of Betsy Mason. (Thanks, Betsy!)

Music: Tying People Together

Guest post by youth volunteer Jenny Sai

Music is one of the most beautiful forms of art and communication we have. It is something that can be shared between friends, loved ones, or even teacher and student. The beautiful thing is that it can connect two very different types of people together. I have formed a unique and close bond to these children I teach at Salvation Army. They have brightened my Tuesday afternoons countless times, without even one dull moment!

Hume Fogg sophomore Jenny Sai at Salvation Army's after-school program.

It has been my goal for these kids to realize that they can express themselves in a whole new way. I always encourage the notion that there is no right way to say how you feel. One way I helped them do this was by analyzing how artists communicate with audiences through their lyrics. We listened to pop songs such as Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” They had so much fun discussing what they thought each artist was saying. We even had an impromptu game of “freeze dance” where I attempted to dance, but only managed to embarrass myself and have them laugh at me.

The kids with their rainmakers! (Check out the video below to see them in action.)

I also wanted them to experience all ends of the musical spectrum, so of course, they had to be exposed to classical music. We listened to excerpts from Glazunov’s Seasons: Autumn and En Bateau by Debussy. Both of these compositions contain grand imagery. I had them draw a picture of the scene they imagined in their head when I played these songs. I ended with themed music and showed them how music could make a movie scary. They had to draw a picture of that too. I saw many monsters and knives and blood. It was a great breakthrough for me seeing how integrated the kids could get with the music.

Other projects I have done with them have involved making homemade instruments. I hoped that with the actual making of the instrument, they would have a more intimate idea of where these instruments came from and how they were made. One lesson I did was musical instruments of antiquity where the kids made Greek panpipes. We also made rainmakers one day. By the end, my students all appreciated the materials we usually take for granted and had a bigger view of where instruments evolved. Not only were they exposed to a variety of cultures, they also learned that music tied people together even in the earliest of times.

Jenny Sai, a sophomore at Hume Fogg High School, is one of 12 HON Youth Volunteer Corps Interns, serving in the inaugural 2011-2012 class. Each month, she plans and leads an arts- and music-focused activity that engages the children served by the Salvation Army’s after-school program.