NSCC students win awards for youth garden project


Published on March 22, 2017

NSCC Pictou campus Enactus members Sam MacKenzie, Jennifer MacLellan, Emma Spaulding, faculty adviser Anne McDonah, Holly Klein, Bethany Ripoll, Nicole MacDonald and Maddie Fleming are shown with the two awards they received from the 2017 Scotiabank Ecoliving and Empowerment regional challenges. Missing from the photo are group members Sydney DeBay, Kelyn Palmer, Hailey Conley and faculty adviser Jim Bate.

©CAROL DUNN/THE NEWS

STELLARTON – A partnership between a group at the local Nova Scotia Community College and a homeless shelter has helped feed and empower youth, with the project also garnering two awards.

Since its inception last year, the Raising the Roots Garden project created by the Enactus NSCC Pictou campus has provided 30 healthy meals for 11 youth staying at the Pictou County Roots for Youth House, saving the shelter about $300.

A presentation about their efforts – part of a challenge that encourages post-secondary students to develop projects addressing needs and opportunities facing youth – has resulted in being chosen as the 2017 Scotiabank Youth Empowerment Challenge Regional Champion and the runner-up for the 2017 Scotiabank Ecoliving Green Challenge.

“It’s really incredible to hear how many meals and how many youth were impacted,” said Emma Spaulding, project manager for Raising Roots.

Last week, student teams demonstrated their youth empowerment projects to panels of business executives during the Enactus Canada Regional Exposition – Atlantic Canada, held in Halifax.

“One of the things we have to do is prove that we’ve been making an impact,” said faculty adviser Anne McDonah. “This one won because it’s a well thought-out project and it’s making an impact.”

McDonah explains that during the presentation at the regional competition, the Enactus group showed a video of Roots for Youth program director Stacey Dlamini talking about the garden. In the video, she notes before coming to the homeless shelter, some of the youth they serve hadn’t eaten a green vegetable in a long time. “They were living on a diet of chicken nuggets,” said McDonah.

She said a link exists between good nutrition and mental health, and the garden has empowered the youth residents to help with the garden, and learn about nutrition and growing their own food.

This year, the Enactus group plans to add a greenhouse, anticipating an increase in meal numbers to 90 for 30 to 40 youth, saving the shelter $900 in grocery costs and providing an additional income of $200 through farmers market sales. Group members will also lead workshops to teach gardening to youth at Roots House.

Enactus is the country’s largest post-secondary experiential learning platform, in which students act to improve the world through projects solving social problems. In 2016, more than 2,734 students led 280 community empowerment projects in Canada. The local group has just completed its first full year, and is the second newest Enactus team in Nova Scotia.

The youth empowerment challenge involved 14 post-secondary institutions competing in four categories. Enactus NSCC Pictou campus competed in all four, presenting three different projects. Ten of the 20 students in the group, with students from the business, nursing, social services, adult learning project and electro mechanical technician programs, made the presentations.

Each presentation was five minutes, with three minutes of questions from the panel of 18 judges. Spaulding said her group spent about 25 hours writing and practising the script.

She said the group was excited with their presentation, and it was nice to be rewarded for their efforts. “Making sure we got the most important points across – highlighting the impact we had on youth was really important to us.”

"Being a young Canadian today isn't easy, the youth unemployment rate is almost twice the national average and debt levels are soaring," said Nicole Almond, president of Enactus Canada. "This challenge empowers students to affect the long-term sustainability of their communities by focusing on youth."

The Enactus group’s two other projects include offering financial literacy workshops for women, and a partnership with Summer Street Industries to create and deliver healthy, prepackaged frozen meals for seniors.

McDonah said one reward of the challenge was the encouragement. “It’s inspiring to be around other students trying to make the world a better place.”

She said as a teacher, it’s also gratifying to see students overcome their fears of making presentations while learning skills such as networking, critical thinking and creativity “things I try to teach in a classroom, but by doing, is so much more meaningful.”

With the regional win, 10 team members will travel to Vancouver in May to compete in the 2017 Enactus Canada National Exposition.