by Stella Shepard
Two youth programs held in a total of six locations across the Island this summer have proven to be of great value to the participants and the community.
The STAR program and the SEAM programs were held in West Prince (Alberton and at the Westisle Composite High School) and as well as in Summerside, Charlottetown, St. Peters, and Morell.
The Good Food, Good Health garden project held in Morell recently celebrated participants’ achievements under warm and sunny skies.
About 25 people attend the event, including the four youth who were in the program and their families, government officials, Morell High School administrators, Chief Brian Francis of Abegweit First Nation, and other supporters of the project.
The four young participants gave garden tours that showcased rows of healthy food they planted, grew and maintained under the volunteered direction of Stephen Cousins, an organic farmer from the area.
“Gardening was one part of the project,” says John Jamieson, Deputy Minister, Agriculture and Fisheries. “The youth developed the confidence and life skills they need to make good decisions.
“One youth told me that before he entered the program, he lacked the confidence to talk to people he didn’t know. Now, the opportunities gained through the project have changed all that.”
The youth participants and the Project Coordinator spoke about the experience of being part of the program.
Kara Cousins, Project Coordinator
I had the privilege of coordinating this program over the summer. It was a great joy to work with the students.
In the beginning, I don’t think any of us guessed how well we’d get along and work together. As we learned more about each other’s personalities, backgrounds, cultures, skills, and interests, we realized how different we all are. Our differences were the magic ingredient contributing to the success of this program.
Each person was willing to offer their strengths to help the group grow and also to ask for help when they were struggling. Working in this garden has taught us all to trust. We planted seeds and tended them. Day after day, we watered, weeded, trimmed, replanted, and watered some more. As the weeks passed, little sprouts began to shoot through the soil, and grew into the garden we see today.
Our friendships grew as well. Throughout the summer, we saw a lot of PEI and learned about different aspects of farming, health and wellness, and financial literacy, to name a few.
We visited farms, greenhouses, and gardens, and spoke to people in those professions. We also visited the Westisle SEAM group toured parts of western PEI. We also camped at Wood Islands, which was a highlight of the summer.
We hiked through Greenwich, played tourist in Charlottetown, spoke to vendors at farmers’ markets, learned about wigwam building in Fort Amherst, and toured UPEI.
This garden started as the seed of an idea with Mr. Reid, the physical education teacher at Morell High School, and the guys’ group he met with weekly during the school year.
Today we can see how his idea has literally taken bloom. We are excited to be part of starting something so much bigger than ourselves that hopefully will inspire other schools to do what we’ve done here.
Carson Myers of Mount Stewart
I am a grade 10 student at Morell High School. This group helped me gain confidence when talking to strangers, and it helped me figure out what steps I need to take to improve my education and try to become a pro soccer player.
At UPEI, I was told that if I ever changed my mind about going pro, another good career would be to become a physiotherapist, which also sparks some interest for me.
The group has helped me improve my time and money management. I was able to save most of my pay in a savings account. I got closer with the others in the group, although in school we never said a word to each other. But now we talk every day and we connect.
This was a very successful group. Other people should get the chance to experience it!
Madelyn O’Hanley of St. Peters Bay, Goose River
I am starting grade 11 at Morell High School this September. Our group started in early July as strangers. In the first few days, we were shy, didn’t talk much, and focused mostly on work or the friends we already had. As days passed, we became more comfortable with each other.
When we all went on a camping trip, we joked with each other and laughed together as we swam at the beach and created lasting memories.
Being part of this experience was one of the best decisions I made in my life. I became friends with people I thought I would never be friends with. This was one memorable summer.
Isaac Paul of Morell
I’m going into grade 12 at Morell High School. I was one of the first people in the guys’ group that Mr. Reid and Mr. Judson started. It started as a chance to meet and talk once a week, but some of us had a hard time talking, so we decided to form a garden group.
It’s been cool to see it turn into a summer job. Over the course of the summer, I had to go to summer school in the mornings and missed some of the activities.
With school being my priority, I learned a lot about balancing responsibilities. I helped the group in the garden as much as I could in the afternoons. It was usually pretty hot and hard work, but I learned a lot. It’s cool to be part of starting something like this on PEI.
Noel Paul of Green Meadows
I will be going into grade 11 at Morell High School, and I live on the Morell Reserve. Early this summer I made some goals for myself. One of my biggest goals was to learn how to bake, and it was great to make cookies and cinnamon rolls.
My next goal is to work on my social skills, because I am not very good at talking to people. I am very scared of talking to strangers because I do not know how to make a good first impression.
Over the summer, I went to farms, colleges, and campgrounds. I had the chance to talk to complete strangers during this time. I was nervous and scared, but now I feel less nervous but still scared.
During this summer job, I got to learn how to garden, which I knew nothing about previously, so I was confused about why they picked me. I learned about watering, weeding, potato bugs, composting, and transplanting. I am grateful that I got to learn these skills because they are extremely useful on PEI.
Funded in part through the Government of Canada Career Focus program in collaboration with the provincially gGovernment of Prince Edward Island, and sponsored through the West Prince Chamber of Commerce, Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edward Island, East Prince Youth Development Centre, the Community of St. Peter’s Bay, and The Adventure Group.