Teens changing the face of their community. That’s the mission of a group of local teens called The Sparks. The Sparks joined together over the last year to work on a 4-H Project through the University of Illinois Extension. The Hoop House, built across the street from Common Place on Peoria’s South Side, had a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 29 at 10am. Many project partners and community members joined in the celebration, complete with The Sparks homemade zucchini bread and enough cake to feed everyone!
Last fall five teens, The Sparks, were asked how they could make their community better and collectively planned to build a hoop house to provide fresh produce to local neighbors and families of Common Place, as well as grow native plants to assist in the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) solution for Peoria. The teens have been meeting since October to determine the community needs, develop the project, identify partners and collect resources. Only a few short weeks ago, The Sparks broke ground and began building the hoop house with the help of University of Illinois Master Gardeners, local community members, and Common Place mentors.
Icesis Ford, researcher and team artist for The Sparks, explained her and her teammates’ role in the project. “We really wanted to bring fresh food to Peoria’s South Side and work with other kids in the community. This project is a great way to show community members and local government that there are a lot of kids and teens in this area that are good kids and want to help and be part of the solution.”
This project was a fantastic example of what can happen when students are supported by their community and given the opportunity to lead. This is just the beginning, the University of Illinois Extension will be looking to continue the Spark Tank program, helping more young people grow as professionals to the benefit of their communities! This is what Make Yourself GP is all about, providing professional opportunities to students, helping us shape our future workforce! To find out more about Spark Tank and the numerous other amazing programs offered by the University of Illinois Extension contact Judy Schmidt.