Summer Youth Employment Program expands projects this year Posted: August 23, 2016

In past years, OLHSA’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), funded by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, has focused on providing a stipend to participants while they clean up parks, such as Mattie Hatchett, Murphy and Hawthorne parks in Pontiac, receive job training, go on informational field trips and more.

This year’s program introduced some new initiatives, including the creation of community gardens in Pontiac and financial and leadership skills training.

Participants of the program had the opportunity to build community gardens in Pontiac this summer. Before building the first garden at Clark and Stockwell, students toured the Micah 6 Community garden in Pontiac to learn about how to grow vegetables and how to build raised beds. This new knowledge was then applied and the 40 participants, aged 16 to 19, went to work building a garden of their own, while putting to use their new carpentry and gardening skills.

The second garden, at Osnum and Anderson, was a direct result of community members seeking to beautify and utilize their spaces. After seeing the transformation at the first garden this summer, Perry Earl of Nation of Kings connected with OLHSA’s SYEP group to duplicate efforts on the nonprofit’s property.  

So far the gardens consist of vegetables, as well as some flowers for pollinating. This season’s crop includes carrots, beans, beets, onions, pumpkins, radish, squash, and several leafy greens.

The SYEP youth also had the opportunity to learn from Fifth Third Bank about budgeting and saving as well as the chance to open their own bank accounts. Toastmasters, a worldwide public speaking group, taught the group how to craft a speech and develop leadership and public speaking skills. SYEP was honored to be sponsored by the Pontiac Toastmasters Zone group out of Welcome Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac.

I’ve no doubt the financial skills, leadership practice and hands-on work in rich soil will enrich the lives of these youth for years to come.