Supporting the Dreams of Northern New Mexico Teens


Supporting the Dreams of Northern New Mexico Teens

Staff Report

The Rio Arriba based Northern Youth Project has just wrapped up a jam-packed Summer program. Their season of activities began in the spring with the planting of their seeds and cleaning acequias in preparation for an abundance harvest.

Beginning in the spring, the teens participated in the Love of Land Project. Combining community service by helping to clean three local acequias with foraging adventures, the teens gathered “trash” to use as materials to build a large, public art work. Using what they salvaged, the teens are working with mentor artists to create an environmentally focused sculpture to be displayed at the Hunter Ford Agricultural Center in Española. The Love of Land project is an opportunity to better understand the acequia systems and their essential role in our community, as well as an exercise in collaboration and working together with artists to make a statement—encouraging youth to speak up in their communities in creative ways.

Eight Northern Youth Project garden interns worked the land, learning to cultivate and raise food from the earth. The teens who participated in the Love of Land art-as-activism project are learning to turn trash into treasure.

Susan Martin, the Northern Youth Project Board President said of the summer “We started our garden season with a successful Seed Exchange and Plant Sale. The community freely exchanged seeds and purchased plants from the local farmers as they enjoyed delicious frito pies. As the season progressed, we focused on expanding our acequia irrigation to more of the garden, as well as planting perennials nourished by the lovely water. We also planted blue corn utilizing our drip irrigation system in an experiment using water-conserving methods. And we look forward to learning how to process the corn into flour. Our tomatoes are looking fabulous and we will soon be harvesting them and our oregano and cilantro for the upcoming Garden Open House and Salsa Contest on Saturday, Sept. 17.”

Now in its seventh year, NYP was founded by a group of local youth and supporting community members as an answer to elevated high school dropout rates, teen substance abuse, academic underachievement, depression, diabetes, and lack of teen services in rural northern New Mexico. Martin says the participants have set out to “be the change” in the community by providing an opportunity for teens to initiate projects they want to do. Focusing on their interests, NYP engages youth in activities driven by their passion and leadership.

Martin summarized the project saying “Though our programs may seem small, they are huge in our rural area. NYP’s projects and leadership training are a platform for teens to develop skills that better their health, academic performance, and personal investment in their communities and the environment. Our model programs have a deep and lasting impact—they reverberate in the families of the teens and the in communities that we serve.”