Green Corps: Growing Futures, Growing Community

Wed., Jun. 23, 2021

Green Corps is a signature community initiative for Holden Forests & Gardens. Launched in 1996, it was one of the first urban agriculture youth education programs in the country being led by a public garden. Green Corps has demonstrated success in repurposing vacant lots as urban farms that have taught more than 1000 high school youth to grow and sell healthy, fresh, affordable food in Cleveland neighborhoods that have had few options for fresh produce. As youth cultivate food on urban farms, they learn skills in employment, leadership, communication, and healthy living that will serve them in their future career and life paths.

The landscape has changed since 1996. Farms have come and gone, including most recently two learning farms — MidTown, our first; and Buckeye, our largest — that are now slated for redevelopment. At the same time, plant-related career fields are looking to diversify their ranks, and some fields, such as arboriculture, are facing a national shortage of skilled laborers.

Cherise Kent

This week, we launched the reimagined Green Corps program. At the helm is Cherise Kent, our new Green Corps coordinator. Central to our new model for Green Corps is hosting high school interns for six weeks this summer at Cleveland Botanical Garden  in partnership with Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU). They will receive training within host departments including Horticulture, Education, Community Partnerships and Guest Services, while furthering their comprehension of how trees and gardens mitigate a multitude of Cleveland’s environmental concerns. They will explore solutions through targeted lessons and interactions with practitioners tackling issues such as urbanization, stormwater runoff, food insecurity, green space inequity and even unsustainable clothing production. These experiences will heighten interns’ awareness of why sustainability and green space are essential to urban centers for stabilizing water quality, air quality, and air temperature.

From left to right, meet interns Aashi Parikh, Serenity Ortiz, and Madison Willoughby.

We caught up with three of the interns who arrived this week. Aaish Parikh is a Senior from Parma Community High School and wants to study Marine Biology; Serenity Ortiz, a Senior at Padua Franciscan, also wants to study Marine Biology and Madison Willoughby who a Senior at Beaumont High School is interested in Microbiology. Through the Green Corps program, these women hope to improve their communications skills while expanding their knowledge in science-related career paths.

The interns are excited to roll up their sleeves, make the most of the next six weeks, and to take the skills and knowledge they learn to help them in future endeavors.

We will continue to tell their story here over the next few weeks.


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Margaret Thresher Public Relations Director 216.212.1782 Email

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