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A Garden of Opportunity

Raquel Williams, age 13 and an 8th grader at Georgian Hills, tends to a plan in Youth Visions Paradise Garden. Photo by Troy Glasgow.

Memphis Crossroads Magazine contributing writer, Toni Lepeska, wrote a story on the Youth Vision Paradise Garden for the Winter 2012 issue.  In addition, she got the opportunity to talk with two of the students about their experience.  Read the full story in Memphis Crossroads Magazine which features the businesses that helped make the experience more than about growing vegetables and fruit. 

The 15-year-old Frayser girl initially frowned on the idea of stirring up the earth to plant seeds for a garden. According to her mother, the girl’s exact words were “I don’t want to dig in no dirt.”

But Nadia Smith began to not only dig in the dirt with other middle school children after classes, she went out in the hot sun each afternoon this past summer and watered the garden outside of the Leadership Empowerment Center (LEC). She also learned to like red tomatoes, not just fried green ones, and to sell the extra produce.

“It was a lot of preparation,” Nadia said of sales at the Agricenter Farmer’s Market. “You had to be prepared. There’s a lot more work than I expected.”

She is learning to apply preparation to other areas of her life, such as school. Doing homework isn’t quite the meaningless chore it used to be.

Other children working on Paradise Garden in the Frayser community near their schools also see value beyond harvesting a crop. Tiara Tyler, 12, whose two greatest ambitions are to be an FBI agent and grow a garden of her own at her mother’s house, said the work has taught her persistence.

“This takes a lot of hard work,” she said as she raked a hand tool across one bed to prepare it for green onion seeds. “If you don’t give up on something, it can come true. When you have self confidence in something, it can come true.”

Raquel Williams, 13, learned not to be intimidated by something she thought she could not do. “You can grow anything,” she said. “To me it’s easy. I thought I didn’t know if I could do this and then I started doing this and I was like, dang, this easy.”

Nadia’s mother, Natasha Smith, who defines her cooking style as “old-fashioned, every dinner has to have a green vegetable,” said Paradise Garden teaches her daughter lessons that she could not impart with words alone. “To me, hands on is always the best experience.”

-- Christina Meek

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