Future teachers get lesson in helping youth, community

By Taryn Powers, College of Education intern

project-hopeSPOKANE, Wash. – Green is just a color. But for Washington State University masters in teaching students, the color represents hope.

Leslie Hall, WSU Spokane coordinator for the masters in teaching program, has her elementary social studies students participate in Project Hope every fall. They take a walking tour of the neighborhood and then work as volunteers in the project’s community gardens for a couple of hours.

WSU Spokane masters in teaching students work in a Project Hope community garden.

The tour is led by Sean Agriss, a WSU College of Education alumnus who lives in the community and has worked with Project Hope since it began in 2004

Its main initiative is to create “green collar” jobs for youth at risk of gang involvement in the west central Spokane area. The project teaches a variety of farming, cooking and business-related skills.

“When my class is studying teaching economics to elementary students, I take them to this particular project because it is an example of how a neighborhood used meager assets to help their youth and community,” Hall said.

One of Hall’s students, Roger Crawford, believes Project Hope helps young people demonstrate what they are capable of. And it shows the WSU students, as future teachers, that they need to have high expectations for their students.

“Project Hope benefits the community by changing vacant lots into interesting and useful garden plots,” Crawford said. “It’s well known that urban gardens reduce crime and make neighborhoods friendlier.”

The produce is sold at the West Central Marketplace and the Thursday Market in the Perry District. These farmer’s markets provide access to healthy food for low-income residents.

Many schools have followed Project Hope’s lead and have created their own garden projects on a smaller scale. Hall wants her future teachers to experience a project like this so that they will be more prepared for their eventual teaching positions. She said Project Hope teaches invaluable job skills and gives young people a sense of pride and ownership in their community.