BECY Program results in Year-Round Job Opportunities for Regional Youth
School buses are rumbling around town and the cottonwoods are beginning to yellow with the shortening days. Yes, summer is sliding into fall in the upland deserts of southern Arizona. Summer blooms are fading, and with them are memories of hard work and soft laughter from Borderlands’ summer youth development program. For the past two iterations of the Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) Institute, the program has been constrained to a 6-week intensive program in July and August that condenses the rich, complex process of landscape restoration into field trips and work days that produce meaningful, tangible results. This fall, however, a generous grant from the USDA will take the program to the next level, expanding it into a year-round job-skills development and business-incubator program.
Above: BECY 2015 Participants at the Harris Heritage Farm. The summer 2015 had an expanded agriculture focus from previous years. Denise Purvis at the farm introduced the students to sustainable, small-scale agricultural enterprises.
USDA Rural Business Development Grant
Thanks to the hard work of BR Staff, Borderlands Habitat Network admin, and fairy godmothers from G.A.R.D.E.N. Inc. in Tucson, the BECY Institute is set to receive funding that will carry it through August of 2016! The grant comes from the USDA’s Rural Business Development Program, and is building upon the existing BECY Institute’s focus on developing applicable job skills for which there is an evident need in the regional market. Funding will be used to support youth during the school year to develop and initiate business opportunity endeavors – in any number of fields related to BECY Institute learning topics. Students will receive a wide variety of training during the school year and summer program. A large focus will be development of business plans to encourage the emergence of self-sustaining enterprises that could turn into real careers. BR staff are looking forward to partnering closely with the Agriculture department at Patagonia Union High School to help tie the students’ projects to their curriculum.
Already, the BECY Institute has succeeded as a training and networking program – 3 students from the summer’s program have been hired as independent consultants to facilitate work days at Windsong Peace and Leadership Center. Windsong has been a long time supporter of the BECY Institute, and this year provided scholarships for BECY participants to both its Advanced Facilitation and Social Justice trainings. Through these trainings the youth learned project management skills and developed their own Community Restoration Projects that allowed them to demonstrate the skills they had learned both at Windsong and with the BECY Institute (see Carly Schmidt’s blog post for more details!).
Receipt of the USDA grant will provide increased opportunity to engage local experts in training and networking with students. Patagonia is fortunate to have a rich knowledge base and we are eager to connect the students to these invaluable resources.
We at BR are incredibly excited to see the development of the BECY Institute progress, and to be able to continue to provide employment and training opportunities for youth in the Mountain Empire. Combined with the recent ArtPlace America Grant that was awarded to the program earlier this month, we are sure to have an outstanding program this year! Stay tuned!