All Eyes Toward Success: YEP and Grow Dat Youth Farm

According to a recent story on National Public Radio, New Orleans has the third-highest rate of opportunity youth – young people ages 16 to 24 who are not regularly in school and who aren’t regularly working. This stark figure isn’t without hope: organizations like YEP and Grow Dat Youth Farm are working with opportunity youth to connect them to education, support, and professional development. Learn more about these programs below.

Youth Empowerment Program (YEP)

Working with youth mostly in the Central City area, YEP serves 1,000 at-risk local youth ranging in age from 7 to 24. Through a variety of programs including summer camps, community-based mentoring, literacy efforts, enrichment activities and more, YEP stays closely connected to participants to provide them with a toolkit for success.

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A child plays at YEP’s World’s Fair Carnival during one of the organization’s summer camps. (Photo courtesy YEP NOLA on Facebook)

One of YEP’s most ambitious (and rewarding) efforts is The Village, providing GED preparation for out-of-school youth ages 16 to 21. If the traditional school system was not a good fit for a student, YEP’s Village provides them with the one-on-one support they need to facilitate graduation. In addition to an educational component, The Village gives students support from a full-time social worker and a full-time youth advocate.

How to Help

YEP relies in part on the kindness of others to fund their full range of youth services. Donate online ($100, for example, pays for a month of mentoring activities for all Village youth), or donate through purchases made at Rite Aid via their KidsCents charity program. The program is free to join, and after enrolling online and selecting YEP as your preferred charity, any purchase you make at Rite Aid will round up to the nearest dollar, with all change going to YEP.

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Grow Dat Youth Farm in City Park gives young adults hands-on experience growing food. (Photo courtesy Grow Dat Youth Farm on Facebook)

Grow Dat Youth Farm

Grow Dat Youth Farm’s mission is simple: “Nurture a diverse group of young leaders through the meaningful work of growing food.” As more and more people lean on convenience foods and unhealthy choices (both of which are often cheaper than fresh, local produce), Grow Dat provides opportunities for youth to put them on the path to better health and equip them with professional skills at the same time.

Grow Dat’s youth program partners with nine local schools to recruit young adults ages 15-21. The program focuses on themes of responsibility, environmental stewardship, community, and services, creating an atmosphere of leadership and teamwork all with the common goal of growing food – a lot of food! Over the course of a growing season, Grow Dat produces 10,000 pounds of fresh produce each year.

How to Help

Even if you’re not eligible for Grow Dat’s youth programs, you can still get involved as a volunteer. Individuals ages 10 and older can help with general farm tasks like weeding, harvesting, watering and more. Want a tastier way to help? Simply purchase Grow Dat’s produce, available on Saturdays through June 21 (the new selling season begins again in January) at the Grow Dat Farm Stand in City Park and the Crescent City Farmers Market in the Warehouse District.