April 16, 2005
By SUSAN KANIA, Special to the Courant
Brushed by a brisk spring
breeze, with the drone of I-84 in the background, Bulkeley
High School students Miladie Rivera, 18, and Luis Mulero, 15,
took up rakes, shovels and wheelbarrows Friday to help the
Hartford Food System prepare gardens for spring planting.
More than 400 Hartford students and millions of youths across
the country will participate in a variety of service projects
this weekend to mark National Youth Service Day. For the third
year, South End Community Services is the local lead agency, with
the help of Hartford AmeriCorps.
"This is an important event for youth in general and for
Hartford," said John Thomas, senior program director for
South End Community Services. "It demonstrates the positive
impact youth can have and want to have in their communities."
The service day volunteers came from several city youth programs
and schools. Miladie and Luis, who are members of the ASPIRA
program, joined youths from Our Piece of the Pie and GROW Hartford
to prepare the Hartford Food System gardens on Laurel Street
"We chose this project because we love to work in gardens," said
Miladie, who like Luis used to help out in family gardens in
Puerto Rico before moving to Hartford. "We want to make
a difference in our community."
They shoveled composted manure and leaf mulch into wheelbarrows,
which other students dumped and spread onto raised garden beds.
Second-year volunteer Jerica Sandiford, 17, a team leader from
GROW Hartford, worked hard raking and offering hints to other
Rayza Pla, 16, from ASPIRA, pulled old roots and weeds from
the soil, as Ernest Hardy, 17, from Our Piece of the Pie, entertained
the workers by showing off a wriggling earthworm.
"National Youth Service Day is an awesome opportunity to
bring kids who are active in the community in different programs
together. They learn from each other," said Shannon Raider,
the GROW Hartford program director who supervised the youths'
gardening activities. She said that by working in the gardens,
the students share the satisfaction of doing physical work and
also learn where food comes from.
Across the city on Pearl Street,
Havagay Hope, 14, and Nayda Pacheco, 17, volunteers from Yo!
Hartford, chose to work with a different sort of tools: books.
They sorted bags, boxes and piles of donated hardcovers and
paperbacks, mostly for children, for the Greater Hartford Literacy
Council. Inside the front cover of titles from "Old Yeller" to "The Runaway Bunny" to "The
Boxcar Children," they stuck labels or stamped the message "Reading.
It takes you places."
The books will be distributed to children in city elementary
schools, preschool or other programs, who will take them home
to add to their family libraries.
Other Youth Service Day projects included an inside and outside
cleanup for Mercy Housing and Shelter and raking and other yard
work for senior citizens. Students who participate in a youth
program at the Aetna Center for Families on Washington Street,
who had been trained by the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration,
set up an information table where they registered new voters.
Earlier in the week, several students toured Hartford's city
hall, where they met city council members, Mayor Eddie A. Perez,
and other officials.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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