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Meet the Crew Leaders: Keely Curliss

Nineteen-year-old Keely Curliss first worked with The Food Project as a crew worker in the North Shore Summer Youth Program in 2008. After that, she spent the next four years exploring different roles in TFP's youth programs. She was a member of DIRT Crew and an assistant crew leader for DIRT Crew, and held multiple academic year and summer internships. In addition, Keely served as a youth member of TFP's board of trustees for two years.

Keely just returned to her hometown of Cambridge, Mass., after spending a year serving as a City Year corps member in Baton Rouge, La. After a long year away, Keely will be returning this summer as a crew leader in The Food Project's Greater Boston Summer Youth Program.


What was your experience like as a youth in The Food Project's programs?

I loved my time as a youth at The Food Project. I think TFP does a really good job of providing youth with very unique leadership opportunities and the chance to really engage and feel they are a part of the Greater Boston and North Shore communities. To this day, I wonder if ever I will have another job with such a range of job responsibilities and variety of events and projects to get involved in. I was really receptive to TFP's programs as a youth and look back fondly on my four years in the youth programs.

What is your favorite memory from your time as a youth at TFP?

I have so many favorite memories - probably one from each day of my four years at TFP - that I couldn't possibly choose just one. That said, I will say that building the Munroe Street farm in Lynn with my fellow interns in the summer of 2009 is definitely a fond memory of working hard. One day, we shoveled dirt for five hours in the morning and went to lunch an hour late because we were all so determined to finish. After spending weeks literally shoveling dirt and forming raised beds, we were finally almost done and I just remember the visible achievement being extremely gratifying.

What have you been doing since you left TFP?

I only left The Food Project's youth programs last year. I know it seems like a short time, but any time away from TFP feels like ages. Over the past year, I completed an Americorps service program called City Year in Baton Rouge, La. I spent the year serving as a tutor, mentor, and role model to 8th graders in a middle school there. I also decided to pursue a degree at Wheelock College, which I will start after this summer as a crew leader.

Why did you decide to return to TFP as a crew leader?

I decided to return as a crew leader for a couple of reasons. First, I missed The Food Project. Second, after a year of City Year in Baton Rouge, I'm ready to return to work in a community I am already familiar with. I think the skills that I gained from my service in Baton Rouge will directly impact how I work with my crew this summer, and I am so excited. And lastly, I can't get enough of TFP's produce.

Have your experiences over the past year influenced the way you will look at your work this summer?

My time with City Year gave me a whole new perspective on working with youth and being a mentor to people close in age to me. I think this year has made me even more driven for the success of young people. The experience of leaving my community and coming back gave me tremendous perspective as well, even if it was just for a year.

What are you most excited for this summer?

I can't wait to meet my crew and I can't wait to teach them to embrace the end-of-the-day filth they will experience at the end of each day on the farm. I am excited for everything. I hope that the teens in my crew will all come out of the program with the ability to see the world a little better through someone else's eyes and that each of them will be able to add one or two veggies to their favorites (kohlrabi anyone?).

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