USDA Awards Grant to Support Green Jobs for St. Louis Teens

USDA Awards Grant to Support Green Jobs for St. Louis Teens

Gateway Greening, Missouri Botanical Garden, Saint Louis Public Schools among organizations working together to support teens pursuing degrees and careers in food, agriculture, and natural resources

ST LOUIS, Missouri, April 4, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded a $135,000 two-year grant to local organizations that employ teens in urban farms, parks, trails, gardens, and other green space. As part of its SPECA program (Secondary Education, Two-Year Postsecondary Education, and Agriculture) in the K-12 Classroom, the agency is supporting a collaborative project of Gateway Greening, Missouri Botanical Garden, Saint Louis Public Schools, and other community organizations, aimed at connecting urban teens with outdoor summer jobs and school-year internships that also provide opportunities for academic enrichment, career development, and civic leadership.

Specifically, funding will support youth workforce development through the efforts of the St. Louis Green Teen Alliance, a collaborative of 8 organizations who collectively recruit, employ, train, and support teens via summer jobs and school-year internships focused on productive, healthy lands and waters, ranging from community gardens in food desert neighborhoods to city parks, trails, and reserves. In addition to building critical skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration, the effort is designed to cultivate a sense of civic pride and ownership among participants, building a future workforce with training in urban issues and solutions.

“This is far more than a summer jobs program,” says Dawna Wharton, Career and Technical Education Specialist for Saint Louis Public Schools. “Our students will learn first-hand about urban agriculture, ecology, and environmental stewardship. They’ll interact with career professionals in fields like urban planning, natural resource management, environmental engineering, education, research, and public policy. And they’ll do all of this alongside peers, working in their own neighborhoods and communities.”

The two-year grant will also fund the University of Missouri – St. Louis to lead an evaluation and assessment effort aimed at improving program impacts in the areas of knowledge and attitudinal shifts and broadening of academic and career interests among participants. Indicators of success will also include direct improvements to green space, such as local food production, ecological restoration, storm water management, and wildlife habitat.

Information on the St. Louis Green Teen Alliance, its programs, and partner organizations can be found at


This project was supported by the SPECA Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant#12122428


About Gateway Greening

Gateway Greening is a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers people to strengthen their communities through gardening and urban agriculture. Gateway Greening has been working to provide creative, grassroots solutions to urban problems since 1984. Programs include supporting more than 220 community and youth-focused gardens across the St. Louis area through educational opportunities, garden supplies and technical assistance, and the Gateway Greening Urban Farm, a 2.5-acre farm in downtown St. Louis that provides therapeutic horticulture and jobs training.

About Missouri Botanical Garden

The Missouri Botanical Garden’s mission is “to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life.” Today, 158 years after opening, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display. 

About Saint Louis Public Schools

Saint Louis Public Schools is the district of choice for families in the St. Louis region that provides a worldclass education and is nationally recognized as a leader in student achievement and teacher quality. The SLPS mission is to provide a quality education for all students and enable them to realize their full intellectual potential. SLPS also believes that competent, caring, properly supported teachers are essential to student learning.



Kathleen Carson, Gateway Greening Education Manager. [email protected]

Sheila S. Voss, Missouri Botanical Garden Vice President of Education. [email protected]



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