Students receive a summer minimum wage salary for ten weeks to focus on personal development, product creation, marketing, sales development, community awareness and neighborhood revitalization through food-based economics. Throughout the summer students visit colleges, technical schools and have discussions with local entrepreneurs and professionals. Additionally, we show students how to turn their produce into marketable Products such as our sweet potato cookies that they can market throughout the year.
What follows is a photo review of the Sweet Potato Project summer program.
As in prior years, students start the summer by planting sweet potatoes. In 2016, we launched a “Land Ownership” initiative aimed at introducing food-based economic activity in North St. Louis. The goal of this program is to put vacant city lots in the hands of young people so they can become vested land-owners and food growers in troubled neighborhoods throughout the city.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
One of the first things we do every summer is focus on youth as individuals. The idea is to get them interacting with one another. Then we help them hone in own their individual strengths through an online assessment test. With this in mind, we encourage our students to create “Treasure Maps” or “Dream Boards.” Youth create boards with photos that represent their ambitions and hopes. Our desire is that they post the boards in their homes as daily motivation as they work to toward their dreams.
The first hour of every mornings is dedicated to reading, watching and discussing news and media events. We believe future entrepreneurs should be aware and able to discuss things happening in and outside their worlds. These morning conversations gave students the opportunity to express their personal feelings about crime, poverty, police and to discover new technological advances and the power of social media.
EDUCATION & CAREER OPTIONS
Students have visited Ranken Technical School, St. Louis University and Community Colleges to explore careers in technical education, culinary arts and entrepreneurship. Our goal is to expose them to viable educational options where they could pursue careers while developing immediate money-making options.
Financial literacy is an important component of SPP’s curricula. We want to help our students better understand the importance of using checking and savings accounts as opposed to relying on quick-cash and/or pay-day lending establishments. We teach students “urban economics” so they can have a better understanding of “supply & demand,” sustainable demographics and how money is earned and spent in their neighborhoods. To this end we conduct:
* Financial literacy Classes
* Career & College Prep
* The Business of Entrepreneurship
* Business Plan Development
Pro. Grant C. Black,director with the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Center for Entrepreneurship and economic Education and Cheryl Walker, Community Development Director with Stifel Bank & Trust have conducted courses based on the real world as adults – complete with occupation, salary, family, student loan and credit card debts, and medical insurance payments. Students had to select housing, transportation, food, household necessities, clothing, day care, and other “wants and needs,” while creating and following a realistic budget.
With note books and pens in hand, students are taken to different parts of the city to note what they see; business signs, types of businesses, advertisements, neighborhood housings and other demographic indicators that factor into strong, robust or weak and vulnerable neighborhoods. Students are instructed to write essays about the “Walks” (click here). The goal is open their eyes to opportunities and challenges they may face as they build businesses and seek to improve conditions in low-income North St. Louis neighborhoods.
Under the guidance of St. Louis University’s Chefs, Steve Jenkins and Bryan Rogers with the Department of Dietetics & Nutrition, students went to the university to learn how to execute recipes, communicate with teammates and clean their cooking stations. Additionally, students are learning how to bake professionally, market, sell and create an accounting system for the food-based products they will sell year-round.
For the past seven years, we have challenged our students to see themselves as young pioneers of a massive food movement in North St. Louis. Our long-term goals are massive farming with residents securing vacant lots to grow food. We envision farmers markets, a food manufacturing plant to package, prepare and distribute food and food-based products. The Sweet Potato Project students are ready and anxiously willing to do their part. The summer is over and we’re moving forward despite the challenges. We can do all we seek to do and more with your continued support. Please donate (click here) to the Sweet Potato Project today.
Thank you! – Sylvester Brown, Jr. / Director
THE NEXT STEP