Sophomore Teion Lee, 16, left, and junior Matthew Dunn, 16, both of Woodward High School, load mulch into a wheelbarrow as they help tend the My Brother's Keeper garden.
It’s not often 13 teenagers gather together at 9 a.m on a Saturday in the summer to pull weeds and rake mulch.
But there was no way Charles Moss, a 17-year-old senior at Woodward High School, was going to skip out.
“Sometimes you make commitments and you have to uphold them,” the teenager said.
The Toledo high school students were fulfilling their commitment to the summer Legacy Area Program, which offers community service and arts activities to 25 students from Woodward and Scott high schools in Toledo. Cleaning up the My Brother’s Keeper community garden on Islington Street on Saturday was just one of those activities.
The students are all members of Young Men of Excellence or Young Women of Excellence, school organizations that develop students’ leadership abilities, prepare them for higher education and careers, and provide those who come from tough neighborhoods an alternative to gangs.
The Legacy Area Program is funded by a $20,000 grant from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation of Toledo. The students who worked at the garden will split $2,500 as a stipend to buy new school clothes.
The students have had a mix of fun and hard work throughout the summer. They attended a week of professional development seminars, won first place at the Partners in Education Dragon Boat race in July, and had an all-night hip hop lock-in party last weekend.
On Saturday, the students pulled weeds and raked decomposing mulch to prepare three raised beds for fall planting. Since 2009, Yvonne Mitcham has maintained the organic garden to teach community members how to grow their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs and provide food to anyone who needs or wants it.
“It’s good for resumes,” Charles said. The Woodward student has dreams of becoming an engineer. He writes songs about raising himself up out of bad neighborhoods and being a role model to his five younger brothers and sisters.
Many of the students participating Saturday said they applied to the program because they wanted to keep busy during the summer.
Shyanne Crawford, 16, the leader academically in her junior class at Woodward, said she was worried about having empty time and “hanging out with the wrong crowd.”
Only three students from Scott High School showed up Saturday morning.
Meighan Richardson, one of the organizers of the Legacy Area Program, said that Woodward’s YWOE and YMOE groups are more cohesive. It helps that Ms. Richardson teaches drama to the Woodward students and coaches the girl’s softball team. Some of the boys in the program play together on the football team.
“Sometimes I’m the only person from Scott,” said Jayana Benton, a 15-year-old sophomore. “Sometimes Scott kids can’t get rides.” Ms. Richardson picked up most of the Woodward students herself.
The Scott students who came mostly worked together but were friendly with the Woodward students.
Woodward High School students Charles Moss, 17, a senior, and Shyanne Crawford, 16, a junior, work on the weeds in the My Brother’s Keeper community garden on Islington Street on Saturday.
Woodward and Scott students may have a reputation for being rivals in school basketball games and on the streets, but that doesn't mean anything to Ms. Richardson.
“These kids aren't gangbangers ... Everyone is so afraid about putting Woodward and Scott kids together,” Ms. Richardson said. "If you give them good stuff to do, you can put them together.”
Contact Arielle Stambler at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.