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December 10, 2018

Youth Empowerment and Making Something New in Fair Haven

By Robert Wild

Stewards exploring the great outdoors of the Quinnipiac river

On a brisk November afternoon along a the banks of the Quinnipiac River,a group of youth ages 9-14 excitedly run and jump around a playground periodically shouting out names of plants and animals one could find in the Quinnipiac River. These are Solar Youth Stewards playing a game they invented called Solar Youth Nature Tag, where everybody is “it”, and everybody is trying to tag one another. The only way to save yourself is to duck and shout the name of something organic in the ecosystem.

Solar Youth incorporates Youth voice in all that we do. This is even true for expanding our programming to a new neighborhood. From recruiting to curriculum planning, every element of our program has input from both stewards and Youth Educator Interns. We are proud to see our youth step up and take leadership opportunities to build their program and make it a success.

Just a month and a half ago it was uncommon to see kids outside at Quinnipiac Terrace - a public housing development in Fair Haven. “One of the things I want to change about Quinnipiac Terrace is that there is nothing for kids to do after school.  That’s why I love Solar Youth” said Steward Andrenique while exploring her community.

Youth at Quinnipiac Terrace learn about a variety of natural ecosystems surrounding their neighborhood

The Quinnipiac Terrace Steward Team program, for ages 9-14, meets for two hours after school on Mondays and Wednesdays. Along with playing games and doing homework, we spend time learning about the environment such as how ocean tides and river fluctuations influence the ecosystems along the banks of the Quinnipiac River.

Our program didn’t just happen overnight though. It was the product of many rainy afternoons passing out flyers and visiting community partners. We also made logistical changes, like extending program hours to make sure as many kids as possible could come. We translated our materials in Spanish and set up an application online to connect with our Spanish speaking neighbors. It has been a great effort, and at times we didn’t know if it was going to happen.

One person that has been instrumental in both the development and implementation of our recruitment plan has been one of our Interns, Jackie. Jackie is a 17 year-old Senior at Metropolitan Business Academy. When ask how long she had been in Solar Youth by one of the younger Stewards she responded “literally longer than you’ve been alive”. Jackie, now 17, has been in Solar Youth since she was 5 years old, so she wasn’t exaggerating.

Stewards participating in an activity using the New Haven Green Map

It was Jacky’s idea to walk around the neighborhood with applications and catch kids as they got off the bus, solving the problem of people not answering their doors. It was also Jackie’s enthusiasm that interested students in our upcoming field trips and program plans. Jackie’s problem solving skills are the product of years of Community Service Action Projects. Jacky has helped plan over 50 community service projects since she was 5. That is well over 200 hours of planning and problem solving. Jackie’s work as an intern is youth empowerment/leadership in action.

As the program day came to an end on November 28th, Stewards held a gratitude circle where they expressed thanks for Jackie’s patience and enthusiasm. The staff is grateful for her quick thinking, her problem solving skills and her dedication to creating, for other young people, the same experience she had in Solar Youth.      

Our Impact Since 2000

  • Youth Served

    3500

  • Youth Service Projects Completed

    500

  • Teen Internships Offered

    600

  • Unique Youth Served Per Year

    150

Green Jobs - Westville Manor Spring 2017

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