By Anna Hummel

Wayside’s AmeriCorps member

In July, five teens and one college intern came to Wayside’s kitchen to prepare entrees for our dinner at the Parkside Neighborhood Center. These students are part of Cultivating Community’s Youth Growers program, which involves farm work, volunteering with hunger relief programs, and reflective writing exercises. Not only do these students give back to others, they are also strengthening their resumes and making important community connections.

When my co-worker, Carly, and I first introduced the four high school students to the kitchen, it was clear they were feeling a bit shy, but they soon showed a great deal of personality and interest in preparing food.

On the second Tuesday of their service, we made Italian bread salad, with red onions, garlic, fresh tomatoes and basil. As I worked with two of the boys, I could tell that they were dubious about this recipe. However, by the end of their volunteer shift, all five students couldn’t stop sampling the bread salad, nor could I! Later that night, we served it at Parkside Neighborhood Center as an example of how to prepare fresh produce and stretch leftover ingredients.

On the third week of service, students were asked, as a group, to plan and prepare a recipe of their choosing. They chose to make sambusas, an appetizer popular in Somalia. Sambusas are dumplings filled with meat, spices and vegetables. The dumplings are baked rather than fried and served with rice and vegetables.

The result of this team-based project was delicious and enjoyed at Parkside—where some guests were able to try something new, and others were able to have a meal option that they recognized from their own culture.

Before the students moved on from their time at Wayside, I made sure to tell them about the benefits of internships and the AmeriCorps program, which brought me to Wayside this past year, and which is a great way to help pay for college.

Two of the young women had been asking me fervently about how they could work at Wayside—eager to find jobs. I was impressed by the work ethic of these student volunteers and their desire to be involved in their community, and encouraged them to continue with service learning, and working with their school guidance counselors to explore different fields. 

We look forward to partnering with another group of Cultivating Community youth for the remainder of the summer. It certainly was a great experience for us, and I learned a lot from these extraordinary students.