Hampton students learn business skills, financial knowledge in community gardening over tomatoes

HAMPTON – Nearly 200 Hampton High School students will get their hands dirty in a new community garden this summer – the first youth program of its kind in the city.

It started with a simple idea: to plant some tomatoes.

Erica Spencer, senior business development manager at Hamptonton Bureau of Economic Development, and Tanisha “Sani” Golston, the city’s human resource development expert, announced in August that they would create a program to increase the percentage of students with industry certification or entrepreneurship. Community-based activity.

Through the Healing Hampton Garden Initiative, students will learn skills that they can demonstrate. On reports and job applications when you receive money. At the same time, the program aims to educate young people about accountability, responsibility and discipline, and to encourage community participation in youth economic development and violence prevention.

How can all these lessons be compressed in one program? Tomato, Spencer is there.

“The students don’t just copy garbage,” Spencer said. “Tomatoes are responsible for your row. So if your tomato dies, that’s up to you.

Dozens of students and 16 vocational colleges from Hampton Four Public Schools will be meeting from June to October. They test the land, grow vegetables – pumpkins and peppers are also temporary – and set up small businesses to sell their produce in the fall.

Other features of the program include the construction of fences and sheds, designing shirts for participants, testing soil, preparing harvested vegetables into food, and a financial knowledge course.

“We asked ourselves what we should do – other than give them a basketball or send them to swim in a summer camp – this teaches our young people something that can go beyond summer,” Spencer said.

Faith-Walk Hampton, a group of interfaith pastors on the streets of Hampton, has donated 350 square feet of space to the students’ service at the Government Celebration Center.

“They had kids ready to go and they had nowhere to go,” said Frank Holman, pastor of the UK Festival Center. “So we thought of something better than going up.”

The land was given as a community garden at the end of April. As Kukuta High School construction students begin to build fences and sheds, that open space is expected to look like activity over the weekend.

“We’re trying to get kids involved using their hands, kinetic forms,” Holman said. We know that our young people today are a mixed race, so we would like to take this opportunity to share with some of those who are interested in farming.

The Hampton Economic Development Office, in partnership with the City Youth and Adult Office, received $ 10,000 in funding for the program.

Latoya Delk, a staff member at the city’s Youth and Adult Office, said the office was involved because the garden produces better results for young people – the main mission of the office.

“We are taking an unusual approach to supporting young people, but it is a win-win situation for everyone,” he said. “There are many students in the school system who will benefit from this garden and the support it provides.”

Delk described the program as a community-based partnership that ultimately “reduces the violence against young people and adults by” helping these young people thrive and thrive. “

“We must all come together to address some of the issues we are facing in our society and among our youth,” Delke said.

At the Hampton Youth Office, 67 participating students will enroll in the city’s Summer Youth Job Creation Program. They are paid $ 11 an hour to maintain the garden 20 hours a week.

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If they do not engage in practical work in the garden, students will be in a financial literacy class.

“If you get $ 100 for one part of the curriculum but you have 80 bills, you don’t have $ 100 – it’s making them realize you have $ 20,” Spencer said.

About 50 students from Hampton academies use their contributions to the initiative as course projects. Those students are not paid, but meet the course requirements.

Summer supervision and education at Hampton City School 4-H in partnership with Hampton Police Unit, Hampton City Council, religious leaders and local small businesses.

Spencer said her office was “very selective” in terms of asking her to “come to the table” to participate with the students.

“We want to make sure that these businesses and individuals are fully committed to working with these students this summer,” Spencer said. “This is not a photo opportunity or a one-time event. If you are leaving, you are working. Take off my gloves, take my weed killer.

Kathleen Berchett, 727-267-6059, caitlyn.burchett@virginiamedia.com

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