Students Taking Action

This semester we offered our first Roots for Peace direct action course at Lincoln High School.  In this particular 6 week class we stepped away from the garden in order to focus on the analysis of food justice issues and the development of a project(s) to create change.

Students looked at an array of issues.  They were particularly appalled by the unhealthy ingredients corporations sneak into our supposed “healthy” foods, the mounds of sugar lurking in soft drinks, the fact that their community doesn’t have a farmer’s market, AND the lack of access to a school lunch menu on campus. They decided to take action on all of these! They took on the role of nutrition peer educators.  Luring peers in with diced apples and peanut butter they asked, “Which peanut butter do you prefer? Jiffy or Shruders? Skippy or this unpopular brand?” Peers always chose the popular brands and then were told they contained hydrogenated oils. Oil demonstrated with the use of Crisco. “Skippy has THAT type of oil!?” students asked. “Yup,” was the response with heads nodding.

Students also wrote the last two weeks of the winter school lunch menu and posted it on the cafeteria wall AND they circulated a petition for a farmer’s market in Lincoln Heights. They got over 100 signatures! We were reminded of how powerful young people can be when they gain awareness around a social justice issue like food justice and community health.  We are very much looking forward to the projects to come in 2013.

Written: 21st December 2012

Intern Hall of Fame

We recently caught up with a number of our former college interns who worked with us and helped build our program over the past 3 years.  Each student, who participated through Azusa Pacific University’s LA Term program, interned for 14 hours per week for 4 months with the AFSC Los Angeles Roots for Peace program.  We are indebted to the interns and grateful to the Azusa Pacific University LA Term program for their contributions to our organization.  The interns served as mentors to youth, assisted in building urban gardens, created and edited youth videos, designed this blog and more!  Read what they had to say:
Chrissy Woo (February-May 2010)

I graduated from APU in May 2012 and I’m now (home) in Oakland, CA. I am currently a volunteer intern at GRID Alternatives Bay Area and will soon be starting a job as Office Administrator at a local church in Oakland.

Looking back now, interning at AFSC impacted me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I was an intern Spring 2010, when the community garden project in Mars Vista was just beginning. At the time I didn’t know much about gardening or even about food justice issues. I just thought that the project sounded interesting and that it had a lot of potential for being a positive and transforming experience for all who were involved. Needless to say, the project did not disappoint. I saw students come together and take ownership of the project, actively transforming the space available to them. I consider myself so lucky to have been there at the beginning stages of this project and I am amazed by how it has taken off and grown in the past couple of years. Additionally, in the past year or so, I have found myself drawn into topics such as urban gardening and urban sustainability. I even wrote my thesis on urban gardens and their great potential for shaping a healthier and more sustainable urban lifestyle. The garden project with AFSC gave me the unique opportunity to see the incredible process of a group of students becoming more connected to their source of food. It is an experience that I will never forget and that will continue to inspire me for many years to come.
While I enjoyed working with the students, I have to say that the best part was actually seeing the food grow! I think we all wondered if our efforts would pay off or amount to anything and I think everyone was truly excited to see the food grow.

Rebecca Hurley (September-December 2010)

After spending four months in rural Ecuador, living on a farm and studying agriculture, I returned to Azusa Pacific and graduated with a degree in Global Studies. I then returned to Santa Cruz, and am currently working at a coffee roasting company called Verve. I am hoping to progress in the company and eventually get a position involved with their green coffee buying throughout Ethiopia and Latin America. Their model of direct trade and intentional relationships with their farmers is something I would love to be a part of, and I am proud to say that this past year we paid our farmers 233% higher than the Certified Fair Trade standard line! In the future I am planning to pursue a masters degree in either Social Work, Foreign Relations, or some other degree depending on what career path I find myself on. (Rebecca photo left)
AFSC shaped me a lot as a person, and definitely had an influence on my education and career choice. I took my experiences at the peace garden with me to Ecuador, where I worked with a local farm working to transform its surrounding community through small-scale sustainable agriculture. Throughout my time in Ecuador I was able to pull from the knowledge and experience that I gained interning with AFSC, and many of the challenges we faced at our garden in LA were the same ones we faced in Ecuador. My experiences interning with AFSC also directly related to many of the subjects I studied throughout my undergrad career in Global Studies. As I studied various social issues and nonprofit strategies to create change, I always had AFSC as an example of an effective organization making an impact through peace and community building. Since interning with AFSC I have gone on to work with several other nonprofit organizations, but AFSC will always stand out as one of the best.

My favorite memory about my internship was seeing students grasp the social issues that directly affect their lives everyday, and realize their capability to create change using the resources that they have. When I began working with the students at All Peoples’ in creating a community peace garden, they had only limited knowledge about food justice, public health, and community gardening. It was incredible to see them grasp the reality of food accessibility and public health, and discover how they could use gardening to transform the health of their community in South Los Angeles, and adopt a new mindset about healthy lifestyles. Interning with AFSC taught me the value of coming alongside youth and helping them discover their resources, talents, and leadership abilities that they can then use to transform the world around them.

Melanie Ferrer   (September-December 2010)

I finished undergrad at APU with a BA in Global Studies this past May. I am currently working toward my masters of social work at the University of Southern California (USC). My concentration will be Community Organizing, Planning and Administration (COPA).

Interning at AFSC was one of my most valuable internships I’ve had. The staff invested in my development and made it an extremely beneficial experience. This internship opened me up to the non profit world, public health, program evaluation and youth empowerment. The staff was very intentional about investing in us as future professionals and colleagues. In many ways this internship has formed my pursuit for my masters degree and revealed skills I didn’t know I had.
Hearing the life stories of the staff members was great! It was helpful to hear everyone’s different paths and their niche in the organization. I loved meeting with Crystal to debrief the effectiveness of our work and how it lined up with our original goals in going in to work with the kids at All Peoples Garden or with the Peace Education class. The Peace Education class was a new component to the AFSC internship, but I enjoyed thinking of ways to effectively reach the students. I enjoyed working on the garden but what brought more meaning was the public health presentation Rebecca and I made for the students. It gave more depth and relevancy to the work the students were contributing to. LATerm’s curriculum and papers structured around internship helped me to learn more about AFSC’s mission and goals, their pedagogy and helped me to get to know the community. The Community Transformation class on LATerm helped me to gain more perspective and a framework for the work that was being done. In all, I throughly enjoyed and appreciate my internship at AFSC. To this day I still reference the work AFSC is doing and the opportunities I had as an intern. Great work AFSC! Thank you!

Andie Tucker (September-December 2011)

I am currently a senior at Azusa Pacific University and I just returned from my Global Learning Term in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While in Kuala Lumpur, I interned for Women’s Aid Organisation, which works to promote women’s rights and end domestic violence in Malaysia.
Interning for AFSC was my first experience in the non profit sector and it prepared me for later internships in the non profit field. My internship experience gave me confidence in my ability to adapt to a new work environment, and confidence in my skills and training. Working at AFSC made me feel like I had something to offer the youth and the organization, and made me confident in my ability to be successful at AFSC or in another organization. Working with the gardening programs also increased my interest in gardening for myself, and in gardening as a tool to teach youth.
I enjoyed working with the youth and working in the gardens. I also enjoyed working on individual projects, like helping to set up the Roots for Peace blog.

Adam Turner (February-May 2011)

I am currently in Bethlehem working in the Overseas sponsorship and donations office at Hope Secondary School.
My internship showed me a different side of LA and myself. Through the experience, it brought out my passion for social justice in a way that no classroom or book could do.
Working on the video was a great time for me. Working with the different schools helped me to see the differences in LA.
Written: 28th November 2012

Youth of The Year Award

Our garden superstar Kity Southall was honored by All Peoples Community Center as this year’s “Youth of the Year”.  On October 12th, 2012 Kity was recognized for his positive and caring demeanor and for his extensive volunteer work.  Kity has served as a garden mentor to young children, conducted research on local Food Access, shared research findings with community members, and  dedicated many weekends and vacation hours to help the school and community garden flourish.  Kity also serves as one of only two students chosen to sit on the board of the HeArt Project, an arts program dedicated to bringing arts to continuation high schools. We are honored to work with Kity and be a part of his involvement in the community.  Kity is looking forward to graduating from high school this year and pursuing a career in the Arts.  Kity we look forward to seeing you reach your goals. We know you will thrive!   
Written: 26th November 2012

Wish Fulfilled

For several months, AFSC staff had been exploring ways to improve water efficiency and increase outdoor seating capacity at the Friends Peace Garden at Lincoln High School.  Thanks to generous funding support from our donors, we were able to purchase supplies to install a drip irrigation system for the garden and materials to build more benches.  In following the spirit of all of our work with youth, we had students engaged in the process.  For the drip irrigation system, students measured, cut and assembled PVC pipe and drip liner.  Olivia Chamu, 15, said, “I learned from a water specialist, then helped my classmates learn to do it too!”  For the bench projects, students leveled and cleared the ground, dug holes for the base, mixed and poured cement, and assembled three benches.  “I learned that I can build benches easily. Also it showed me a lot about teamwork.  Now I want to build one for my house,” said student Eriberto Cruz, 17.
Written: 31st October 2012
Over 50 students, faculty and administration at Lincoln High School in Lincoln Heights recently unveiled the Friends Peace Garden mural.  Students worked with AFSC and local muralist Daniel Ruiz in designing and planning the mural in November of last year with input from the school.
The mural, which depicts a family gardening against the backdrop of downtown LA, celebrates the land, culture, and diversity of the city.  Ethnically, the school is predominantly both Latino and Asian-American and surrounded by gang-violence.
As one student, Danielle described it, “I enjoyed painting a mural in our garden. It was awesome working with a muralist and the students.  Our ideas are now displayed on a wall!”
Final completion of the project was in May 2012.
Written: 31st May 2012

Participatory Action Research Project in Mar Vista

In April, students from Central High School in the Mar Vista Housing Projects joined 19 students from Azusa Pacific University’s LA Term program to survey 64 residents in the low-income housing complex.  The students set out to learn more about the residents’ eating habits, level of access to healthy foods, family health, and interest in growing their own food.
Significant findings from the participatory action research project:

  • 48% of the residents indicated that they see more fast food restaurants in their neighborhood than grocery stores.
  • 51% of the residents surveyed reported that their family and children eat from fast food restaurants at least once per week.
  • 55% of residents surveyed reported that members in their family household have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
  • 66% of residents indicated an interest in learning about gardening and having their own garden to grow their own food.

Currently, the housing authority management has a policy banning residents from growing their own food.  Students plan to share these results with the housing management to advocate for a change in the policy.

Written: 24th April 2012