Updated: Aug 17
Friday, August 4th marked the conclusion of the eighth year of the One Summer Chicago program at Growing Solutions Farm. For the eighth Summer, Chicago Public School students with Autism and related challenges have had the opportunity to engage in a range of farm tasks while developing their ability to work collaboratively as a team, conduct themselves professionally in a workplace environment, and communicate effectively with supervisors and peers. Over the previous six weeks, twenty-three students from Al Raby High School and Ray Graham Training Center spent twenty hours per week working at the Farm alongside their teachers, paraprofessionals, and Urban Autism Solutions staff.
UAS was proud to once again serve as an employment site for the One Summer Chicago initiative, which seeks to provide employment and internship opportunities to youth and young adults ages 14 to 24. The students received payment for their labor from the city of Chicago. The excitement and energy was always high when payday arrived and students happily received their well-earned paychecks!
The students demonstrated growth, both individually and collectively, throughout the weeks of the program. They enjoyed the varied farm tasks, such as harvesting lettuce, potatoes, jalapenos and kale, washing the produce, and then weighing and packaging it for sale at the Farm Stand. On particularly hot days, the comparatively less strenuous task of weeding was a welcome relief! Several students accepted the task of mowing the lawn on different days, and it became a source of great pride to be invited to take on this important responsibility. On several days, the students practiced cooking skills, preparing simple meals which incorporated the fresh produce from the Farm and making refreshing beverages such as beet juice and cucumber juice.
During the final week of the program, several students shared about their experiences working at the Farm this Summer. Darius, age 16, immediately chose mowing the lawn as his favorite activity during One Summer Chicago, praising lead farmer Tucker Kelly as “a great teacher.” Ashanti, age 21, who became especially skilled at washing the produce after harvest, stated that this was her favorite activity. Edward, age 22, shared that he enjoyed the diversity of the activities, including, “weeding, harvesting, and cooking.” Joshua, age 17, summed up his time over the past six weeks by asserting that One Summer Chicago at the Farm was “A great experience for the Summer, a great job to be a part of, and it felt great to receive a paycheck, too.”
Thank you to the teachers, paraprofessionals, and farm staff and volunteers who helped make One Summer Chicago at the Farm an enriching experience for the students!