Schoolyard to Market Fellowship Grows Youth Leaders

Alicia Corchucia, Schoolyard to Market
July 27, 2018

Meet Alicia Corchucia, a soon-to-be-senior at John O’Connell High School and summer fellow at CUESA. Last summer, CUESA introduced a program to provide paid learning opportunities for high schoolers who have completed the Schoolyard to Market gardening and youth entrepreneurship program, as interns for our Foodwise Kids field trips and cooking classes.

While gaining broader experience with professional opportunities in the sustainable food world, Alicia took what she learned to the next level by serving as a leader to younger kids exploring the farmers market. Through her time in the garden, in the farmers market, and supporting CUESA’s education programs, Alicia also deepened her interest in food justice and the environment. She shared this reflection:

From the Garden to the City and Back

I was born in San Francisco, but for the first four years of my life, I lived in the Philippines. I remember my grandma being a big fan of farming, mostly because we had owned a piece of land. She woke up every morning to take care of her garden and spent her free time tending to the plants as well.

Once I moved to San Francisco, my relationship with food shifted from being engaged in a seasonal farm to living in a busy city where we would just go to the grocery stores for food, where there was an abundance of items in their usual spots, from places I didn’t know, all year round. 

My grandma had taught me about the importance of knowing where food comes from, but I never thought about implementing that into my lifestyle until I joined the Schoolyard to Market program with CUESA during my junior year of high school. Every Wednesday, I would get the opportunity to go out into our school garden to grow produce. Sometimes we visited farms, and at the end of the semester, we sold our produce at the farmers market. Schoolyard to Market definitely showed me how big of a difference shopping from grocery stores vs. the farmers market was, and that has stuck with me ever since.

Deepening and Sharing Food Knowledge

Being impacted so much by this experience, I decided to apply for an internship that SFUSD offered, the Summer Fellowship Program, where I could serve as a fellow at CUESA during their summer camp programs. Schoolyard to Market prepared me for this experience by being able to delve deeper in learning about food such as: how it’s grown, where it comes from, and the different paths food takes to reach the consumer.

The fellowship entailed working with younger children in the Foodwise Kids program, participating in the farmers market educational programs, completing paperwork in the office, and also assisting the market operations team. These tasks taught me to be organized, listen to what others have to say, and be open to taking constructive criticism.

During the summer fellowship, I was able to work with a group of teens from Collective Impact who had already been learning about food justice. Most people think it’s easy getting along with people the same age as them, but I’ve always felt some kind of disconnect, maybe because I’ve been surrounded by adults most of my life. This session showed me otherwise because it didn’t feel so scripted. It was different from me usually asking questions and getting a response. There was more of a conversation going on and even when I was supposed to be “teaching,” I was learning about food justice from them as well. I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, people my age don’t seem so bad after all.” This experience I shared with them taught me to not be so closedminded and allow myself to get to know other people.

Besides working with teens, I was able to work with a younger group of kids from Family House, an organization that serves families of children with illnesses. As we were walking around the farmers market, I heard comments from my group such as, “I’ve never seen this before” or “I didn’t think I’d like this, but it’s actually really good.” This moment brought me back to the first time I had ever gone to the farmers market, and it brought me joy that I was able to be part of these kids’ new experiences.

Aspirations for a Greener Future

Working with younger kids in the Foodwise Kids program has inspired me to want to teach our youth about the importance of healthy, local food because we only feel as good as what we put into our body. There is a long-term effect that food has on each individual, especially their wellbeing.

Before these programs, I was someone who didn’t know much about the value food has on a person. Now, I have seen a change within myself and my diet that has made me happier and wanting to teach others about what I know. I used to not be a fan of squash, but now that I know different ways to cook it besides just eating it raw, it’s grown to being one of my favorite vegetables.

Through Schoolyard to Market and the summer fellowship, I got to be a student and now a role model for our youth. This experience has been such an eye opener for me and what I want for my future. I am entering my senior year of high school and that also means figuring out college and what I want to study. I had always been interested in learning about engineering, but I want to look more closely into environmental engineering.

On the other hand, the farmers market reminds me of the farm I grew up on, and the kids remind me of myself when I was little. As a result of the impact my grandmother had already left on me, my interest in the environment has only grown while working with CUESA.

Inspire youth like Alicia to be the food and environmental leaders of tomorrow. Support the Schoolyard to Market program with a donation to CUESA today.

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