2016 Regions Riding Forward® Winning Essay by Gabrielle M.

2016 Regions Riding Forward® Winning Essay by Gabrielle M.

“To grow your own food gives you a sort of power, and it gives people dignity. You know exactly what you’re eating because you grew it. It’s good, it’s nourishing and you did this for yourself, your family, and your community.” The community activist Karen Washington, whom I will emulate, has helped people all over New York grow more food, build healthier neighborhoods, and even more so, lent a significant hand in educating her community. Washington began gardening when she bought her first home in the Bronx in 1985. In her backyard, she started her own personal garden with which she fed her daughters. As her passion grew, within three years’ time, she and her neighbor Jose Lugo turned a lot full of garbage across from her home into a botanical community garden with a simple goal to teach the children and adults in her neighborhood on the importance of food in their lives. Washington made a significant achievement by obtaining her master’s degree from the University of California, where she studied organic gardening at the Center of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. For those who did not have the ability or resources to travel for this type of education, she helped launch two educational programs in 2010. Her selflessness has received recognition, for she was well-deservingly named one of Ebony’s “Power 100” in 2012 and received an award from Michelle Obama for her extensive service in urban gardens.

Prior to learning about Ms. Washington, I dreamt of having a greenhouse connected to my future home so I could not only benefit personally from eating home-grown produce, but also expand the amount of different vegetables and herbs I could grow. After coming across an article about Washington and her achievements, I realized that my gift for growing food should not only be restricted to myself but needs to be shared with others so they might reap the benefits of home-grown produce as I have. Washington made me realize the difference that can be made if I use my gift to reach out to people that lack the necessity to experience or learn how to garden. Shortly after reading about her selflessness, I was inspired to take my hobby to a community level as she had and serve others over myself. The message I have received was to take a step forward, that one day, I may be able to make a difference in the people’s health of my community as she had in hers—A step of action that I’ll be able to continue until I reach places I would have never imagined.  I plan on teaming up with my mother as well as a few friends who share a similar passion for gardening to develop a strategy where we’ll be able to donate our surplus crops to help out the Highland Park area in Chattanooga, TN. Karen took the first step when she began her first community garden in the Bronx; now it’s my turn.




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