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Creating opportunity in Rockford

Shiquita Shumaker (right) and Rockford youth participate in the 5th Annual Black Farmer's Market event at Navy Pier.

 

Angelic Organics Learning Center partners with a network of community-based organizations in the Rockford area that make up the Roots & Wings network. Roots & Wings aims to increase the leadership and life skills of local youth and adults through participatory development projects, hands-on garden-based education, and community service.

 

Shiquita Shumaker, 28, has made positive changes in her life through her work as coordinator of the Roots & Wings youth leadership and gardening program at her apartment complex, Concord Commons. Shiquita admits that she’s never been good about eating her vegetables. Now, she’s not only eating the vegetables she grows, but she’s developing leadership and sales skills, and teaching youth and other adults how to garden organically and eat healthfully as lead community organizer of the program.

 

“When I started here, I had no clue about gardening,” Shiquita said. “Now I’ve got some skills under my belt.”

 

Last year’s growing season culminated when Shiquita and 6 other Concord youth and adult leaders sold their vegetables at the 5th Annual Black Farmer’s Market at Navy Pier in Chicago in September. “It was beautiful,” Shiquita says. “We sold out of everything except the gourds, and it was great to meet all of the people. Now we’re looking at other sales opportunities in the Rockford area.”

 

During the summer months, 15-20 youth take part in the gardening program at Concord each day. “This program is so important because it keeps the kids doing something positive,” Shiquita says. “There’s so many negative influences here, and the garden helps them get away from that.”


New Rockford Program: Eco-Advocates

 

This year, Angelic Organics Learning Center welcomes a new Rockford partner into the Roots & Wings Network- Comprehensive Community Solutions, Inc. (CCS). The Learning Center is partnering with CCS on a new program called Eco-Advocates, which will provide vocational green jobs training to Rockford youth ages 17-21. Eco-Advocates combines academic education, training in green technology and urban agriculture, life skills, and leadership development for young adults out of school and face barriers to employment.

 

The partnership received a grant from the Boone Winnebago Workforce Investment Board to implement this new program. Angelic Organics Learning Center will provide vocational training to participants, as they join forces with the Roots & Wings network to help to develop a new urban farming site and support urban agriculture throughout Rockford. 

 

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