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Interns Display Power of Knowledge

Interns at Gila Cliff Dwellings
Interns at Gila Cliff Dwellings
The presentation began in a dark room with four green-clad presenters facing away from the audience. When the audience quieted, a slide show played images of teens working the land at an urban farm, selling produce at a market, and cooking together. When the music from the slide show ended, the audience’s attention returned to the backs of the four presenters. In turn, each presenter rotated to face the audience to speak freely on his or her chosen topic. When the next presenter felt it was time to switch, he or she turned to the front and interrupted the narrative. And so the audience heard four piecemeal stories of diversity, land, food, and personal change that aimed to describe the experience of working with The Food Project.

The exercise was called "Storyline," and formed the introduction of a workshop presented by TFP youth interns Simon McIntosh and Mayra Class, Intern Program Manager John Wang, and TFP co-founder Greg Gale at a conference in Silver City, N.M. The conference took place on Feburary 24 and 25, and was hosted by the Guadalupe Montessori School and the Grant County Wellness Coalition. These two groups are currently working together to improve food security, fitness, and nutrition amongst young people in Grant County by establishing meaningful and dynamic youth programming for teens in the area. By inviting youth and staff from TFP, they hoped to jump-start the creation of a youth internship program at the Guadalupe Montessori School farm.

Greg, John, Simon, and Mayra led a series of workshops about The Food Project's youth development and community programs and facilitated discussions about a variety of food justice and sustainable agriculture topics. The workshops ranged from the basics of what TFP does to promote food access in the Greater Boston area to specific descriptions of TFP's youth development model and testimonial about the personal change experienced by youth in the programs.

The previous weekend, John attended the Rooted in Community (RIC) Winter Leadership Institute outside of Tucson, Ariz. The Institute served as an adult-centered follow-up to RIC's annual summer conferences for youth. John and other adult attendees shared curriculum, materials, workshops, and strategies from their programs. The end result was a database of curriculum and other materials from more than 50 food-related youth development organizations around the country. For John, this conference was a valuable opportunity to build strong relationships with similar youth development professionals, have deep conversations around discussing social issues with youth, and plan for collaboration between TFP youth and youth from other organizations in the region.

Attending national conferences is an important way for The Food Project to spread its model and to connect with other organizations to innovate new strategies and best practices for involving youth in the food justice movement. Bringing youth to these conferences shows attendees that youth and adults are both equally invested in The Food Project and equally essential to its programs.

For the teens, conferences can be a vital time to realize and display the power of their knowledge and experiences. According to Intern Program Manager John Wang, the youth who present at conferences build confidence and bring energy and hope back to The Food Project's efforts in Greater Boston. "They can talk about big social issues," and people will listen.

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