An Interview with Eliza Lawrence, School Gardens Manager!

Eliza Lawrence has been working with the REC for four years now, and was recently promoted from AmeriCorps Massachusetts Promise Fellow to School Gardens Manager.

Q: What type of food do you like to grow?

A: "Snap peas, because they’re my favorite vegetable and they’re fun to pull off the vine."

Q: What are your farming tips?

A: "You can grow food ANYWHERE. If you don’t have space, you can use buckets."

Q: What is it about this organization that keeps you coming back?

A: "The people I get to work with, in particular the youth. Building relationships makes my job really fun."

Q: What’s the most powerful moment you’ve had with the REC?

A: "The times that the youth have reached out to staff about how school can be an oppressive place for kids when they don't have anyone advocating for them, but it's nice knowing that they feel safe here."

Q: How has working here impacted your daily life?

A: "Working here has allowed me to meet so many amazing young people all over Worcester whose ideas and opinions give me faith in the future of this city."

Q: What have been your favorite changes in the community since starting here?

A: "I have seen a lot of negative changes in the community as a result of gentrification, but something positive I have seen in my four years here, that I know has always happened but I've just recently been able to be witness to it, is the increase in kids commitment to and ownership of the neighborhood. When kids are given ownership of the neighborhood in the form of a meaningful project, it is so beautiful to see them realize that they have the power to change things."

Q: What inspired you to choose the REC?

A: "The issue of food justice resonates closely with me, and as someone who likes working outdoors and in gardens the job spoke to me. I started as a volunteer in college and became an AmeriCorps with the organizations, and now am the School Gardens Manager."

Q: What does it mean to you to be a part of something greater?

A: "Everyone is part of something greater, whether they know it or not. I think the people who do know it and have the extra time and resources should spend it working to help give that power to people who don't know it, or haven't been able to see it."

Q: How has your work here enabled you to advance your career?

A: "Being a part of the AmeriCorps program connected me with youth workers all over the greater Boston area who have challenged and pushed me to hone my skills and be a greater youth worker and advocate. I owe a lot to my youth worker community. It's a good one."

Q: How do you feel after a day’s work here?

A: "It depends on what I’m doing, for example, after YouthGrow I feel dirty and tired but full."

Q: Has there been a challenge in your outside life that the REC has helped you overcome?

A: "Before this job, I had no professional confidence and no experience working in an office, all the jobs I had before were in the service industry. The REC offered me a supportive environment full of people who cared about my future."

Q: If someone asked you what we do, what our mission is, what impact we make, how would you describe those things in your own words?

A: "The REC has created a network of young people in the city connected by the common thread of learning to grow food, what food justice is, food justice vocabulary, and how food justice impacts the community that they call home. When I see youth that wouldn't otherwise have interacted, building this huge network, getting each other jobs, creating meaningful friendships, bringing that knowledge back to their own schools and other schools in our network, that is powerful!"


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