Young Hands Help Plant Hope at the Mystic

Young Hands Help Plant Hope at the Mystic

"You didn't just plant flowers, you planted a little bit of hope." --Frank, Somerville Housing Authority tenant.

This summer, Roberta Hayes, a master gardener and landscaper helped transform the landscape at the Mystic

Nearly three years ago, the Somerville Housing Authority finished a $3 million landscaping project at the Mystic Housing Developments. The SHA transformed fields of asphalt into grass and trees. But soon after the plantings, SHA staff grew concerned after finding some of the new plants had been damaged.

“We thought that a positive way to help the Housing Authority protect the new green space would be to enable Mystic youth to get their hands dirty as they learned more about their local environment,” said Warren Goldstein-Gelb, director of The Welcome Project, which manages the garden at the Mystic.

“We already were working with young people in the Mystic Kids Garden, and we thought if we could get young people involved in taking care of the new landscape, that would be of great benefit." Welcome Project youth get their hands dirty in the Mystic Community landscaping project

This summer, Roberta Hayes, a master gardener and landscaper who has spent many years helping with the Mystic Community Garden, had a chance to work for the Somerville Housing Authority on a project that engaged Mystic youth directly in the SHA's landscaping. Youth from the Mystic at work in the gardens

Engaging youth from the Mystic Learning Center's summer camp and employing high school students from the Mystic and surrounding neighborhoods, they planted flowers at the Mystic and at the Jaques Street Senior Center. The project provided job and skill training for youth, as young as 5 years as old, up to college aged students. It provied high visibility for teens, who were encouraged to take pride in their work and set an example for their fellow youth and teens.

The program continued the efforts of The Welcome Project and Mystic Learning Center to develop programs that would engage young people Welcome Project youth helps out in the landscaping projectin their community, helping to reduce vandalism and increase safety.

"You can see it in their faces; you can see the kids behaving better, and interested in the environment here." said Joe Filho, who works for the Somerville Housing Authority as a manager of the Mystic Activity Center.

Another aspect of the summer project was the cooperative and effective relationships developed between the youth and adults from The Welcome Project and The Mystic Learning Center as they worked side by side with SHA staff.