There are 53 apple trees in an orchard in Dr. Jose Rizal Park. Last year, the orchard produced 1,500 pounds of produce for the community. This summer, 30 students participating in Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Youth Engaged in Service (YES) program spent an afternoon tending that orchard.
The YES Program is a year-round volunteer program for Seattle-based youth between the ages of 13 and 18. In the summer, participants volunteer for six weeks from early July to mid-August for a total of 120 hours in a Parks program or facility or community-based organization. Sixty hours of the required 120 may be used towards the Seattle public high school service learning graduation requirement, and volunteers can receive a $150 stipend for the remaining 60 hours at the program’s conclusion.
Meghan Patino is a Seattle Parks coordinator for the program. This summer she has 60 students registered. She said the internship prepares youth for the workforce, helps them engage with their neighbors and teaches them personal skills while supporting Seattle Parks’ mission to promote environmental stewardship and community building.
“I’m impressed that these kids are willing to show up every day and work hard during their summers,” Patino said.
High schooler Benjamin Smith said he’s completing volunteer hours for his graduation requirement and using the internship stipend to help pay for a senior trip to France.
Eighth grader Jayla Fashaw said the program is teaching her valuable customer service skills.
When the YES program interns visited Dr. Jose Rizal Park on July 29, they were there to learn about a piece of Seattle’s history and how urban orchards were making healthy foods accessible to low-income communities.
Green Seattle Partnership Forest Stewards Craig Thompson and Jack Bennetto helped the students restore a trail that led to the orchard and removed invasive plant species to support healthy growth in the greenspace. Before the work party began, Thompson talked to the students about Dr. Jose Rizal and how their work was meaningful to the Beacon Hill community. Rizal was a Filipino patriot who, during his short life, made lasting contributions to medicine, political and social reform, engineering and a large number of other disciplines.
“Whenever I come here to do work I keep in my heart what an incredible human being this park honors,” Thompson said. “This park means so much to the Filipino community. If you’re here at night, you’ll see tons of families gathering and people enjoying the beautiful view of the city.”
For more information on the YES program, visit http://www.seattle.gov/parks/teens/programs/teenjobs.htm.