FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — An agricultural project in Fresno County produces more than food. It will now be used in formations across California.
The Sweet Potato Project helps teens in southwest Fresno get interested in farming while teaching them life lessons.
During the program, African-American students learn how to grow, market, and sell sweet potatoes.
“Our young people, they could have done anything – they could have been out there on those streets, they could have been involved in gangs, they could have been involved in drugs, but they decided and they committed to being a part of this program to learn about leadership, about self-esteem, about agribusiness, about entrepreneurship,” Yolanda Randles told Action News in a 2020 interview.
Randles is the executive director of the West Fresno Family Resource Center, which runs the program.
The goal of the program is to keep children out of gangs and away from drugs and alcohol.
With funding from the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health, there is also a focus on mental health awareness.
“You build community. You build safe space. You build relationships,” said division director Ahmad Bahrami. “Throughout the program they talk a bit about wellness, healthy decision-making and healthy lifestyles, and a bit about mental health. So it’s not a direct, stigmatizing way. It’s more like, like you’ By learning these things, you’re also learning about wellness and what to do if you’re having difficulty.”
The California Alliance for Child and Family Services will now use the Sweet Potato Project as an example of an innovative, non-traditional approach that can work with young people.
On July 26, organizations in California, focused on at-risk youth, are invited to attend training on the program, even to hear from participants and the benefits they have experienced.
The training event will be held in-person from 1-3:30 p.m. at the Fresno State Student Recreation Center on N. Woodrow. There will also be a virtual option. Registration is open.
Program organizers hope it will allow other organizations to plant the seeds for a better future across the state.
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