WASHINGTON, Pa. (October 24, 2014)—Many Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) students use the Magellan Project to have research experiences abroad, but one proved the award is just as valuable here at home.
Lauren Horning ‘15, a double major in environmental studies and Spanish from Bellefonte, Pa., spent the summer of 2014 interning as a youth supervisor with the Braddock Youth Project (BYP) in Braddock, Pa., a community just east of Pittsburgh.
BYP is a collaborative initiative of Grow Pittsburgh and AmeriCorps that aims to advance the town of Braddock by training local high school students to work on sustainable community development projects. Its ultimate goal is to simultaneously promote sustainability and teach high school students skills that will aid them in the pursuit of jobs.
“My job as a youth supervisor was to teach the students how to grow their own food and to educate them about food systems,” Horning said. “This summer, six youth were chosen to participate in the program, and I was their supervisor.”
Horning said she grew up eating foods from her family’s garden, and she thinks many people don’t realize how incredible food can taste when it is prepared well and made with fresh produce. She said the popular mentality of getting more food with less money is a dangerous one that leads to poor health, and she hopes to play a role in making the popular mentality one of placing a higher value on fresh, healthier foods.
BYP is a selective program, and Horning said the connections she has made and the experiences she has had at W&J played instrumental roles in obtaining the internship. Her journey began at The Commons, which houses W&J’s dining facility.
“I was talking with Chef Doug about my interest in local foods and teaching about sustainable agriculture,” she said. “Doug has a lot of connections in Pittsburgh because he owned a sustainable restaurant before he came to cook at W&J. He also knows the directors of Grow Pittsburgh, and he suggested that I apply for the youth supervisor position at Braddock Farms.”
Horning was studying abroad in Ecuador when she contacted Grow Pittsburgh to apply last spring. She interviewed with the company via Skype, and largely because of her prior Magellan experience volunteering on organic farms in Argentina, she earned the position with BYP.
In addition to teaching the BYP youth skills related to sustainable living, Horning also used her internship experience to teach other practical skills they will use throughout their lives.
“The youth learned about all aspects of gardening – planting, weeding, making and spreading compost, tilling the soil, trellising and harvesting. But behind the scenes,” she added, “I taught them about team-building, leadership, and job-readiness skills. They [also] learned public speaking skills by giving tours to groups that came to the farm.”
BYP has a standards system that teaches youth about responsibility and respect. Horning completed weekly evaluations for the youth in her program, noting the positive qualities of their work as well as areas in which there was room for improvement. This aspect of the job was aimed at preparing the youth for obtaining and maintaining jobs after high school.
Whether she was leading her students through an educational curriculum about sustainable living, helping her students host an herb-planting workshop at the Braddock Senior Home, or growing fresh produce at Braddock Farms, Horning was always working with the future in mind.
“My dream job would be working for a restaurant or food company with local outsourcing, which means connecting people with local foods and farms,” she said.
In the meantime, Horning plans on working to improve sustainability and healthy eating through her connections on the W&J campus until she graduates in 2015.
“I owe a huge thanks to Chef Doug at The Commons for fueling my dreams, cooking incredible foods and being more of a friend and supporter than just a professional contact.
He and I are putting together a local foods dinner here at W&J,” she said. “He will design the menu from local season foods bought within 50 miles of campus. Doug will talk about cooking and buying locally, and hopefully the farm manager from Braddock Farms, Marshall Hart, will also speak.”
The local foods dinner will take place on Friday, Nov. 14 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Parcell Room in the W&J Commons. There are 45 seats available, and reservations can be made by emailing Lauren Horning at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work.
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