Three Main Purposes
- The garden gives youth offenders an opportunity to give back to the community in a valuable way.
- The garden grows food for hungry families.
- The garden is used to teach the 4-H Essential life skills of Belonging, Mastery, Independence and Generosity.
Washington State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development program and the Clark County Juvenile Restorative Community Service (RCS) program partner to provide eligible youth offenders with a unique way to meet court requirements of accountability.
What We Do
2003–2016. This project focuses on accountability, integration, and change by providing juvenile offenders the opportunity to fulfill their obligation for their crimes by giving the community a service of value. The RCS program focuses on life skills and experiences that will help youth in their daily lives and to provide them the feeling of satisfaction of giving back to the community.
This project is based on the philosophy that youth offenders who integrate into their communities and work with community members, rather than working on secluded projects, are less likely to re-offend. By working with community volunteers, being treated with respect, and accomplishing tasks together that benefit the neighborhoods they live in, youth offenders make a meaningful connection and contribution to the society they harmed. This allows youth to experience what it is like to make a positive connection with their own community.
Trained community mentors work with juvenile offenders to grow food for the local food pantries and homeless shelters. During the past 13 years, the program worked with 1,204 juvenile offenders who grew over 21,312 pounds of produce. The youth learn basic gardening skills and the challenges those less fortunate face to provide healthy food options for their families. Youth also learn food safety and basic cooking skills to provide for themselves.
From April through October, community members, Master Gardeners, mentors from the juvenile court, and the 4-H Youth Development/Food $ense programs Coordinator meet weekly to work side-by-side with juvenile offenders. Over the course of 23 weeks in the 2013 growing season, youth grew and tended to the garden, producing about 1000 pounds of produce that was then donated to the Clark County Food Bank and the North County Food Pantry.
In youth survey data collected:
- 88% said they learned something they can use to make healthy food choices.
- 90% youth said they saw how science can be fun in the garden.
- 99% said they did something important to help the community that day. Participating youth are also less likely to re-offend or re-offend with less serious crimes.
In adults survey data collected:
- 100% saw at least one youth take responsibility for a task in the garden.
- 100% saw a youth do something to help their community.
- 86% saw a youth apply science to an everyday decision.
Academic Showcase: Jodee and Sandy presented a poster highlighting the 4-H RCS Garden achievements at WSU’s academic showcase.
Presentation to the Nutrition Symposium in Oakland California. One 4-H youth and an adult representative from Clark County Juvenile Court were chosen to talk about the 4-H Food Bank Garden. They shared their experiences working in the garden and explained why the partnership between 4-H, Food $ense, and Clark County Juvenile Court have been so successful. This symposium was for directors and administrators of SNAP-ED programs and other groups that work towards food access for families with limited resources in our region.
4-H Youth, Roxana Cualio notes from her experience:
When I attended the Nutrition Symposium in Oakland California, my job was to give a youth perspective on what it’s like working in the 4-H RCS Community Garden. My first topic was about how all of the fresh produce grown at the garden goes to community food banks and shelters. I talked about my first experience with donating some vegetables we had harvested to a women’s shelter and how much of a positive impact it had on me, and my community. After that I talked about what a normal day in the garden was like and how working in the garden impacted other youth. When other youth arrive at the garden their experience is usually awkward simply because teenagers are just awkward in general. However, as the day progresses they start to feel comfortable and want to participate more.
Want to Volunteer Your Help?
If you are interested and able to encourage and model positive interactions with youth while working side-by-side in the garden, then you have what it takes to be a mentor. While gardening experience is a plus, it’s not necessary, since we have staff that are knowledgeable in this area.
Call or email Jodee Nickel, the garden coordinator, at 564-397-5713 or at email@example.com. If you’d like to see the project in action, stop by the garden during one of the meeting times and tell the 4-H staff person in charge that you’re there to check it out. We’d love to show you what we do, and why we think you’d love volunteering with us!
Volunteer training: topics that will be covered
What Are the Values that Drive this Project? WSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Independence, Generosity, Mastery, and Belonging.
- Tips for working with court-referred youth
- Ages & Stages of Youth Development
- Common characteristics of adolescents
- Responding to common situations in the garden
- Going to the port-o-potty to smoke
- Struggling to keeping youth motivated
- Rushing a garden task.
- What happens during a typical garden session?
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