by Tavon Johnson
This is the first post in a series about Mission Thrive Summer.
The Institute for Integrative Health in partnership with Civic Works’ Real Food Farm, is just a week away from launching the third year of our youth summer program, Mission Thrive Summer. Held at the farm’s site in Northeast Baltimore’s Clifton Park, the program gives Baltimore City high school students a chance to garner the tools necessary for a holistically healthy lifestyle.
Mission Thrive Summer has twice as many participants as it did when it began in 2013. This year, 30 students will spend five weeks participating in activities centered on nutrition, fitness, farm-based learning, and mindfulness—the intentional act of seeking inner awareness of one’s emotions, thoughts, and perceptions. Through the program’s partnership with Baltimore City’s YouthWorks initiative, students will earn wages by completing farming projects.
Crew leader training begins
Mentors, called crew leaders, will work alongside the youth, leading, teaching, and guiding their respective student crews. Four crew leaders, Lydia, Morgan, Jeremy, and Kyle, began a hands-on training last week, allowing them to experience many of the same activities in which they’ll mentor the students.
The two-week training includes daily time in the kitchen, where crew leaders are deepening their knowledge of nutrition, meal planning, and cooking. Just as they will when the program begins, these sessions culminate in the preparation of lunch, sometimes incorporating food grown on the farm.
In fitness training sessions, crew leaders are learning about the benefits of different types of exercise, including yoga. Once Mission Thrive Summer gets underway, participants will stretch, pose, and twist their way to lifelong healthy habits with which they can empower their own communities.
Crew leaders are also practicing mindfulness and stress management, another component of the program. A training session in meditation (one of the tools of mindfulness) saw crew leaders “finding their peaceful place” as they practiced calming their minds to de-stress and mentally unwind.
Crew leader Jeremy expressed how beneficial this was: “Doing the meditation training is good because you don’t normally get to focus on not being so worried about everything all at one time.”
Throughout the training, crew leaders are getting acquainted with the inner-workings of an urban farm by identifying farm tools and their functions, harvesting green beans and summer squash, as well as sifting compost piles.
Mission Thrive Summer includes activities to build students’ leadership skills. As an introduction to this, crew leaders participated in a community building exercise: They worked in pairs to create the community of their hearts’ desire within the framework of a quasi-legal system. Other program staff played the roles of sheriff, bankers, and officials.
Ecstatic after learning their loan application had been approved, crew leaders Morgan and Kyle saw how building strong, sustainable communities takes a lot of work from a lot of different people.
“It showed that in leadership, there has to be roles for each person involved in the project,” said Morgan.
Coupled with leadership, Mission Thrive Summer emphasizes teamwork. As mentors, role models, and teachers, crew leaders must be able facilitate collaboration among participants. A workshop on conflict resolution concluded the first week of training, giving crew leaders indispensable tools for success this summer.