Thanks to a $5,000 donation from Coast Capital Savings Credit Union, UBC’s Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership (SOYL), an innovative internship for Vancouver youth, was able to expand over the summer and help school gardens thrive over the summer months.
Now in its third year, SOYL, a project of UBC’s Faculty of Education, doubled its enrollment and prepared youth from eight Vancouver public schools to be leaders in their communities. In addition to growing food at four secondary schools, SOYL interns gained hands-on skills by building gardens, managing compost systems, running a market stand, leading workshops, and preparing healthy food. Interns met with producers, distributors and other contributors in Vancouver’s food system who work to make healthy food more accessible. The project allowed young people to explore ways to support a sustainable and just food system.
Stacy Friedman, Program Manager for the SOYL Internship, says the project was at risk for cancelation this year due to funding cuts.
“After stewarding gardens at four schools for the last two years, both the schools and the youth were relying on SOYL’s involvement,” Friedman said. “Coast Capital’s funding made it possible for us to keep school gardens alive and vibrant throughout the summer and to prepare more youth for leadership roles in our community’s food system.” In 2010, Coast Capital funded the SOYL Internship pilot project with eight youth. This summer, 16 teens from eight Vancouver schools participated in the internship.
Youth interns apply to the project in the spring and those who are accepted volunteer 10-15 hours per week for six weeks. Many of them gain their first work experience through SOYL, as they steward the gardens at Britannia, Churchill, David Thompson, and Vancouver Technical Secondary Schools. Former SOYL interns built some of these gardens in past years, and the schools can now provide opportunities for students to learn and work in the gardens throughout the school year, donating fresh foods to their school cafeterias. Students learn from working in gardens across the city and bring new ideas and skills back to their schools.
Over the past summer, SOYL interns shared their accomplishments and learning on a blog: soylprogram.wordpress.com.
Wendy Lachance, Director of Community Leadership for Coast Capital Savings, said the credit union chose to support UBC’s Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership because it allows youth to learn about leadership and gain hands-on skills.
“Coast Capital Savings is committed to building a richer future for youth in our communities,” said Lachance. “We’re proud to support UBC’s Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership internship again this year because it provides youth with a unique opportunity to learn, gain work experience and give back to their communities.”
The youth worked with community mentors from a number of food organizations in Vancouver, including UBC Farm, Farmers on 57th, SOLEfood, Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA), and Fresh Roots Urban Farm, giving them a wider view of food security and connecting them with potential partners for community development at their school’s gardens.
About Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership (SOYL)
The SOYL Internship is an offshoot of UBC’s Intergenerational Landed Learning Project which partners elementary-aged children with senior citizens and other volunteers to grow and prepare healthy food at the UBC Farm. Friedman believes these garden education programs have a lasting impact on a generation of youth who want to care for the earth. Many youth remain involved with sustainability issues after completing the program, and two graduates of the Landed Learning Project will participate as SOYL interns this summer.
About Coast Capital Savings Credit Union
Coast Capital Savings Credit Union is Canada’s second largest credit union with total assets under administration of $13.5 billion, 475,000 members and 50 branches in the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, and Vancouver Island regions of British Columbia. Product innovations include Canada’s first free chequing account from a full-service financial institution and the country’s most flexible mortgage product, the You’re the Boss™ Mortgage, which was named 2010 Mortgage of the Year by canadianmortgagetrends.com. Coast Capital offers one of Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures™. It is a member of Canada’s Best Managed Companies Platinum Club and an Imagine Canada Caring Company. To learn more, visit coastcapitalsavings.com.