What do Satsuma orange trees have to do with Opportunity?
The beautiful New Orleans morning started with a question: “Is this what you thought a farm looked like?” That was Grow Dat Youth Farm’s Director Johanna Gilligan asking the 50+ middle school students and Tulane student athletes here in the middle of City Park in New Orleans about to plant fruit trees. Sitting in creative bright recycled containers-turned building, just a few minutes from the heart of the city- the answer was “no”. But Grow Dat, one of our coalition members, supported by Tulane University has turned expectations on their head.
What is so special about Grow Dat Youth Farms is that not only is it making a strong commitment to the community, but that it is also built on collaboration: the power of working together is exemplified as people from different backgrounds, with complimentary assets and skills can come together on a project that educates, empowers and nourishes New Orleans. It is an urban farm that creates jobs for local teenagers growing and selling organic produce, and gives away the remainder to low-income residents nearby. They learn farming, nutrition and business skills, grounded with the ethic of service. Grow Dat grows local food, and it also grows local leaders.
But what does planting Satsuma orange trees have to do with Opportunity Nation’s goals?
The Opportunity Index examines the factors that contribute to economic opportunity at the community level. Strong communities, along with having basic needs met like like hunger, are the foundation upon which a ladder of opportunity can stand. And engaging teenagers in the process, through education and employment helps them climb up the ladder toward their own dreams. Communities with quality education, jobs and career paths and safe streets have rungs that everyone can grasp and reach their potential. They are not simply creating more opportunity for New Orleans, they are serving as an example of a sustainable community of opportunity for the entire country.
Thursday’s event was a special one, it was part of the Opportunity Nation Higher Education partnership with Tulane University, and they also engaged the NCAA. NCAA has brought the Final Four Men’s Basketball to New Orleans this year, and they are making lasting contributions to the community with a donation to Grow Dat. And our Opportunity Leader and New Orleans native Jarwanda Harris was a great partner in the effort. Each contribution was critical to make the day a success!
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