ENGLEWOOD — Marian Baraen, 17, said working at the Sherwood Peace Association Community Garden this summer has been a valuable learning experience — and provided a safe alternative for many of her classmates.
"It beats hanging out on the corner where people are getting shot up," said Baraen, an Englewood resident and junior at Paul Robeson High School. "We learn about a lot of new things, like why trees are important for the environment and how to plant vegetables."
Baraen and other students have been working at the garden a 256 W. 61st St., mowing the grass, planting vegetables and pulling up weeds as part of a job-training program by the city of Chicago and the nonprofit Greencorps Chicago.
The six-week program, which provides two days of classroom training on horticulture and three days of fieldwork at the gardens, is in its second year. Students work 20 hours a week and receive a $100 weekly stipend for their participation.
Other students from Robeson, 6835 S. Normal Blvd., said participating in the program gave them something constructive to do for the summer.
"If I was not in this program I would probably be hanging out [all day] with my friends for the summer," said Serra Sutton, 16, of Englewood. "I prefer to get paid to learn something new. ... I want to have something to do everyday besides wake up,"
Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), whose ward includes the garden, said President Barack Obama secured funds while he was still a state politician to help purchase the land the garden now occupies.
"In 2005, when he was a state senator he donated thousands of dollars towards the purchase of the land by the Sherwood Block Club. The goal was to develop the land into something for the community and today his investment is still benefiting the community," said Cochran,
Chicago students are not the only ones who have worked on the garden.
Pat Hill, volunteer manager of the Sherwood garden, said students from across the Midwest and even Canada have came to Chicago this summer to volunteer.
"A group of students from Cincinnati will be here Monday. I have had students from all over come to volunteer to fulfill their community service requirement for school or the courts," Hill said.
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