Success stories: Youth describe projects from gardens to dance parties at 2012 Youth Social Entrepreneur Summit in St. Paul

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On April 27, the Sundance Family Foundation convened the 2012 Youth Social Entrepreneur Summit at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.  This summit featured displays of social entrepreneurial programs, workshops lead by youth and business professionals, and opportunities for young people to learn how to start their own ventures, and lead ventures through organizations where they participate.

One of the programs that participated was the East Side Garden Corps.  Located on the east side of St. Paul, this program is comprised of 20 high school interns who grow sustainable gardens.  Their East Side Garden Corps engages youth in sustainable urban agriculture in its seven organic vegetable, herb and flower gardens. The program teaches basic job skills, sustainable growing methods, and healthy lifestyle and food choices. It helps young people become involved in their community and to make connections to career opportunities.

Another was The A List. This Brooklyn Park organization provides a safe place for kids 13 and older. As a youth who loves going to this organization, Carly Dyer explained, “On any given night we may have up to 125 kids. The place is usually full when we have dance night, and it is so much fun.” Opened in the fall of 2010 by two University of Minnesota students, this organization houses a screen-printing shop, a snack shop, a career center, a lounge, meeting spaces and a portable stage. It is run almost entirely by teenagers and college students.

“What would it look like if we could change the world?” participant Irene Fernando asked the audience.  “How do you honor the culture of where you came from with the culture you will create?” In leaving her family in California to attend the University of Minnesota, that was the question she struggled with.  During the first semester of her freshman year, Irene decided she wanted to do something more than just study.  The first Pay It Forward Tour she organized in 2004 had 63 students who wanted to make a difference in the lives of others and participate in a community service project.  Out of this came the organization she co-founded and for which she serves as co-executive director, Students Today Leaders Forever.  Today, there are 15,000 students across the country who participate in a Pay it Forward Tour.

“Young people have the ability to make a difference and we are thrilled at the opportunity to see it happen,” said Nancy Jacobs, founder of the Sundance Family Foundation.