Youth Empowerment Program (YEP)
Based in West Philadelphia at Paul Robeson High School for Human Services and William L. Sayre High School, AUNI’s Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) provides food education and urban agriculture to approximately 60 high school students, or Youth Wellness Ambassadors, during the school year and 100 students during the summer. AUNI empowers the selected teens to explore and identify solutions to health disparities, promote healthy lifestyles, and build a just and sustainable food system.
By teaching healthy cooking classes, tending school gardens, and operating a school-based CSA and farmers markets, Youth Wellness Ambassadors increase access to local, organic, affordable, nutritious, and culturally-relevant food; create tools to build food sovereignty; provide a space to deepen our relationship to the land, our food and each other; and improve community health while developing academic and job skills. Thestudents also play a lead role in advancing youth-led solutions to improving community food systems through participation in regional and national networks and conferences.
AUNI’s school garden crews increase access to locally grown, chemical-free produce in the West Philadelphia community and strive to improve the health and wellness of program participants as well as the community at large. They achieve this by tending, harvesting, and marketing fruits and vegetables from the garden. Food from the garden is sold at the Sayre High School garden and, in the near future, Robeson High School’s garden local farmers markets and donated to community food cupboards. YEP students gain substantial experience in food systems, horticulture, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
AUNI’s Youth Wellness Ambassadors participate in three after school crews — Food Education Squad (FEdS, Robeson High School cooking crew), G-Squad (Sayre High School garden crew), Nutrition’s Most Wanted (NMW, the Sayre High School cooking crew), and Roots (Robeson High School garden crew). Each crew is led by an AUNI nutrition educator and works to address rising occurrences of obesity-related illnesses in West and Southwest Philadelphia by emphasizing wellness and nutrition through healthy cooking and urban gardening. Youth Wellness Ambassadors use Think AHEAD and Healthy Habits to teach healthy hands-on cooking lessons and recipes at their high schools and at West and Southwest Philadelphia community sites including homeless shelters, recreation centers, senior centers, and faith-based institutions.
College and Career Readiness (CACR)
To empower youth with the tools to take control of their education and navigate life after high school, AUNI hosts weekly CACR seminars that address the challenges youth will face in college and the professional world. Youth work together in peer groups to reflect on their academic progress, set goals for the upcoming week, and hold each other accountable for successful progress. Youth also participate in study hall time where they work on assignments, receive tutoring, and engage with mentors from the University of Pennsylvania. For youth struggling to maintain a C grade or above in all of their classes, AUNI provides a framework for youth to create an Academic Growth Plan that partners with parents, teachers and AUNI supervisors. The CACR program leads field trips to local colleges, universities and career centers, provides externships for youth interns during the summer before their senior year, and hosts events for parents that help to bridge the college access gap.