Opportunities to Grow, We All Need Them

December 6, 2019

As our youth face an uncertain climate future, you can support them in becoming the empowered food and environmental leaders of tomorrow. By donating to CUESA, you help them both connect with nature and develop critical skills that will sustain them throughout their lives.

This month, we’re featuring change makers in our community who are part of a fair and regenerative future. Today, meet Diamond Ozan, a sophomore at Mission High School, where she participates in CUESA’s Foodwise Teens. This semester-long after-school program invests deeply in our youth: students grow their own food, learn about sustainable food systems, and gain valuable job experience—all while getting paid for their work. Your support of this program means that teens like Diamond are nurtured to build confidence and grow to become environmental leaders.

She recently told her story on stage at CUESA’s Sunday Supper, as she introduced a video about Foodwise Teens. She shared why it’s so important for teens to have opportunities in nature, to make connections, and to discover their power as change makers:

My name is Diamond Ozan, and I’m a 10th grader at Mission High School. I was born and raised the majority of my life in Hayward, California, with my mom, dad, older sister, Angelica, and my two brothers, Carlos Jr. and Zaiah.

Six years ago my parents inherited a house here in San Francisco. So at the age of 10, I had a big life and culture change, moving from a town to a big city. There was a faster pace and a lot of people. And especially a lot of hills!

Last year, I started attending Mission High School. When I heard about the Foodwise Teens program in my health class, I chose to sign up because I heard it involved cooking, and I had never had a job before. The only experience I had with cooking was watching my parents and grandma cook. I was really interested in cooking and learning about new foods. I was also thinking about going to culinary school after high school.

When I started Foodwise Teens, I experienced many new things and challenges. Gardening for the first time was different, interesting, and not mention, very muddy!

I didn’t realize how much time, effort and patience you need. You have to be careful not to step on the plants, and make sure not to prune off too much of the plant, or it won’t grow. But what I really enjoyed about gardening was knowing that I was helping the ecosystem by helping the plants grow.

We also learned knife skills in the kitchen, and how to make pickled carrots. I enjoyed knowing that the veggies we grew would get picked, prepped, and sold at the Farmers Market.

The first time I worked at the farmers market, I had to wake up really early to be able to be at the market at 7:00 am. It was dark, rainy, and very cold. There weren’t very many customers at first. It was hard to get their attention, which was frustrating.

But my perspective changed my second time around. I learned to greet customers, make eye contact, and be able to talk confidently about the products I made. These skills are important to connect with people and show that you care.

Since then, Foodwise Teens has opened up many job opportunities for me. Over the summer, I did an Environmental Steward internship in the San Francisco Botanical Garden, where I prepped the flower beds and learned about Mesoamerican plants.

This fall, I have a job as a CSA veggie box coordinator at Mission High School. It feels good to be there, and make it convenient for families to pick up their fresh produce. I am also participating in Foodwise Teens again on the leadership track, so I can deepen my skills, step up, and share what I’ve learned with the group.

All of these experiences have really helped me see what I’m interested in doing in my future. Working in the garden and being outside in nature with Tessa, our Foodwise Teens supervisor, opened my eyes to plants, how we use them, and why we need them. People take plants for granted. We need plants to survive—for cooking, for medicine, and for our health. They are our future. And youth are our future, too.

I never knew what botany was before, but being in this program has made me change my goals. I now want to study plants after high school and become a botanist. I also want to mention how thankful I am to have Tessa because she introduced me to job opportunities and things I want to study in the future.

Foodwise Teens is not just a gardening and cooking program. It is about communication, teamwork, and making connections with people and these are things that we all need in our lives. All of us need opportunities to grow, be healthy, and realize our potential. Thank you for supporting the next generation of leaders and Foodwise Teens! 

Your support makes a difference in the lives of Diamond and other youth in our community. When you give to CUESA, you are help them develop themselves as they are entering adulthood and building confidence, environmental awareness, and food systems knowledge that they will take with them throughout their lives. Make a tax-deductible donation today.

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