On the first Friday in August, National Park Service rangers gathered with teenagers from North Philadelphia and Camden to celebrate the end of a new summer program, one that takes urban gardening and adds a dose of history and adventure.
The pilot program, Growing Hope, took eight teenagers, some whom are members of the Student Conservation Association, which partnered with the NPS on the program, and together they tended the 18th century garden at 325 Walnut in Philadelphia.
During the six-week program they also took field trips to famous area landscapes including Bartram’s Garden, Longwood Gardens, Laurel Hill Cemetery and Valley Forge.
“They were here early every morning, they got their tasks under way, then we went to other sites,” said Tonia Horton, supervisory project manager and landscape architect. “I have never worked with a group of kids who had more heart, who had more spirit, who had more strength.”
Luis Acevedo, from Camden, has been in the Student Conservation Association for four years. The 17-year-old knew how to plant seeds and grow plants. He didn’t expect to learn anything groundbreaking.
He was wrong. On the first day, he learned that cemeteries were the first public gardens, and it shifted his perspective.
“Every garden has a purpose and it has something to give to the community,” he said.