On a sunny December afternoon, I sat down at my computer to have a discussion via Zoom with the spirited Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens (BEETs) Leadership Crew. A vital part of CommunityGrows programming is a paid teen internship where San Francisco youth can learn about the environment, gain plant cultivation skills, and receive job readiness training— all while creating community. The BEETs cover many different topics during each session, and while that can make it hard to fully describe what the BEETs program is, we believe its expansive nature is part of what makes it so special. To learn more about the teens’ experiences with the program, I sat down with the Leadership Crew and we chatted about their roles in the BEETs. Read the full conversation below!
First of all…what is the Leadership Crew?
The Leadership Crew, also known as the L Crew, is composed of 3 BEETs members who have gone through the program before and are now returning for their 2nd or 3rd year. Building on their experience from previous sessions, they are now taking on more responsibilities and offer greater direction on how the program should operate. On the Leadership Crew this year is Tiana (High School Senior, 3rd year BEET), Jaden (High School Junior, 2nd year BEET), and Teresa (High School Junior, 2nd year BEET).
Why did they want to join the BEETs and take on a leadership role within the program?
Tiana— She had taken agriculture classes in school and has always been drawn to the outdoors. After a year in the BEETs program, she wanted to learn more about the behind the scenes of running the program and felt compelled to join the L Crew.
Jaden— Jaden grew up gardening with his grandmother and at school, so the BEETs program immediately appealed to him. He enjoys garden work, agriculture, and nature, so the BEETs is a perfect fit to expand on his interests. He’s best friends with Tiana, and she was a big part of the reason why he decided to also be a part of the L Crew.
Teresa— Teresa loves gardening and the outdoors so she was excited to join the BEETs when she found out about the program through her school. She has enjoyed how immersive the program is, and believes it’s an incredibly different and unique experience that aligns well with her passions. After a year in the program, she wanted to take on more responsibility and thought being part of the L Crew would be an amazing experience.
What makes the BEETs so special to them?
Tiana—“I think something that makes the BEETs special and stand out is that you always learn something new. This is my third year, but every year we learn something new”. She mentioned enjoying the educational field trips because they don’t feel like field trips that happen in school, but rather like going out with friends.
Jaden— “The BEETs is a place where you can speak your mind, and that’s what I do every time. It’s more community based rather than work. It’s kinda like a family where we go on trips and go camping and build community. It’s community-based and you can speak your mind.”
Teresa— She believes the emphasis on community building both internally and externally in the program is a really powerful element. THe BEETs are provided with opportunities to work with their fellow BEETs, but also other local organizations. One experience she mentioned was the ability to work with Climate Action Now to plant trees. She also admires how broad the topics they learn are. She said “we could just be working in local gardens, but it’s so much more than that and I think that makes the program very special”.
What is one of their favorite things they have learned through the program?
Tiana— She’s loved learning about the Green New Deal and teaching her peers about it. She first heard about it last year through BEETs and found it so interesting she wanted to take the initative to create and present her own lesson on it this year.
Jaden— Jaden said his eyes have been opened through learning about environmental policy. He said he didn’t even know it existed before and has enjoyed taking deep dives into it. He’s also loved learning camping skills.
Teresa— Teresa has enjoyed doing research on and teaching her fellow teens about the 2020 presidential election, how it connects to climate change, and figuring out what the presidential candidates’ stances are environmental policies (Which is no small task! Go, Teresa!).
Favorite BEETs activity.
Tiana— “Camping. Every year it gets better”
Jaden— “Camping. Also visiting Alemany farm and planting there”.
Teresa— “Camping as well. Besides, that was one time when we went to a farmers market in the mission and for some reason, I had so much fun, We interviewed farmers and asked them about the difficult and lengthy process of getting their food established as organic as well as asked questions about how far they traveled and other things. This year when I took my environmental science class we created our own farm and had to ask similar questions about the environmental impact of farming and it made me think back to our field trip. Even now when I go to the farmer’s market and grocery stores I think about the relevance of what we learned and how hard it is to be a farmer. I still think about it now.”
Growing the BEETs
Teresa wants to see the BEETs expand. She thinks it would be really cool to extend the opportunity to more local teens, and we agree. She said, “It’s very difficult to sort out who can get into the BEETs because there are so many great applicants.” There are times when we have more applications than we have spots, and it is always difficult not to be able to hire all the amazing people that apply. This year, to expand our capacity, program coordinators B and Vanessa spearheaded a grassroots fundraising campaign to raise money for 2 additional BEETs stipends. Thanks to the generous contributions of advocators and supporters, we were able to raise $6009 for the BEETs program this December! We can not thank those who participated in the fundraiser enough, and we hope to continue to be able to grow the BEETs program so that even more San Francisco youth can share these spaces to build community through hands-on experience learning about environmental and social justice with their peers.