The Greening of a Desert

Academic Enrichment Grant

 2009-2010 Project Summary

Carlos R. DeJesus

The Greening of a Desert • Chicago, Illinois

The Pedro Albizu Campos High School (PACHS) proposes a school-based program in urban agriculture to enhance the engagement of our students in addressing the community’s designation as a food desert. Currently, community residents literally have to leave the community and travel to other communities in order to purchase affordable, fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs. The school will establish a student-designed and coordinated Urban Community Farm in Chicago’s Humboldt Park. PACHS provides its students, all of whom have dropped out or been pushed out of public high schools, with a highly supportive, student-centered environment in which to undo years of negativity and failure in their prior schools, and rekindle their innate curiosity and love of learning. Students learn the value of service learning and community engagement, that the community is an ecosystem, and that their well-being as individuals is intimately tied to the well-being of their community. The students have been engaged in problem-based learning and encouraged to research, deliberate and come up with solutions to the community’s food desert status and its concomitant health issues. The ideas that the students have generated include: a community-wide campaign to encourage community residents to grow their own food through backyard and roof-top gardens, the development of a greenhouse at the school and on the rooftops of buildings along Paseo Boricua, and the creation of an urban community farm in Humboldt Park, a 209-acre park located within the community’s boundaries. The students’ recommendations have fueled a community-wide urban agriculture initiative.

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