Last month, staff from the Seattle Kraken, Climate Pledge Arena, One Roof Foundation, and the City of Seattle joined Cedar Grove for some volunteer work and cider-pressing fun at YouthGrow! 

bright red growth at the garden
YouthGrow Garden

YouthGrow is a paid, eight-week program of YouthCare for youth ages 15 – 21, combining GED instruction with the development of gardening and food production skills. The YouthGrow garden is based in South Seattle, where students are proud to sell their produce at the nearby Columbia Farmer’s Market. If you haven’t been by to see the garden, come over for a visit! It’s a little slice of peaceful growth!

Last year, Karen Dawson, Director of Public Affairs at Cedar Grove, a local powerhouse of organics recycling and sustainability, reached out to YouthCare with the inspiration to connect homeless youth with employment opportunities in the composting industry. Cedar Grove began taking YouthGrow student cohorts on tours of their sites, with each station taking the time to explain their work. Trade jobs in the industry provide stable job security along with generous wages and a variety of employment options, with the benefit of supporting environmental conservation efforts. A recent graduate of YouthGrow was so taken with the mechanic shop, they were recently hired on as an apprentice!

“I’m really passionate about connecting kids to living wage jobs, whether or not they can pay for college, and giving them exposure to this work.”

Karen Dawson, Director of Public Affairs, Cedar Grove

It was then YouthGrow’s turn to invite Cedar Grove to come and tour their site, and this sparked a vision to bring fresh compost to the garden along with employee volunteers. Karen invited YouthCare’s mutual partner, Seattle Kraken, along with Climate Pledge Arena, One Roof Foundation, and the City of Seattle to join in the volunteering, creating a wonderful coming together of the community in support of our youth. The additional idea to check out a cider press from Northeast Seattle Tool Library made for a fun day of fall festivities and community collaboration. City Fruit even got involved with donated apples! 



new garden beds at YouthGrow
New farm rows at YouthGrow

The group got to work using Cedar Grove compost and topsoil to create a new set of farm rows, significantly increasing YouthGrow’s gardening space. The wheelbarrow and shovels that were brought for the project were also donated to YouthGrow…along with many donuts for gardening energy! Afterward, everyone gathered for cider pressing which turned out to be an adventure in learning to use the press. It was amazing fun to watch the bucket fill up with fresh, golden juice. One YouthGrow student commented, “I never knew this was how you make apple cider!”.

Brianna Treat, Manager of Sustainability at Climate Pledge Arena and Seattle Kraken, comments, “Proud to have joined Cedar Grove alongside my colleagues volunteering with students from YouthCare Seattle’s YouthGrow program. Not only does this program align with the Seattle Kraken’s One Roof Foundation’s Environmental Justice Pillars but provides hands-on education in school gardens to help all children feel accepted and empowered to make conscious choices, become stewards of the environment, share their culture and increase community resiliency.” 


volunteers pose at youthgrow
Lucas with volunteers from Cedar Grove, Seattle Kraken,
Climate Pledge Arena, One Roof Foundation, and the City of Seattle

Increasing community resiliency is exactly the work that YouthGrow is doing as it teaches skills in environmental growth and sustainability. And the program is fortunate to have Lucas, YouthGrow’s Program Coordinator, at its helm. Karen comments, “Lucas is an absolute delight to work with. As my primary contact at YouthCare, he represents the organization and its mission exquisitely. His passion for the cause behind everything he does shows in everything he does. He is an incredible force for good in our community and YouthCare and the youth it serves are lucky to have him.” 

YouthCare is grateful for the wonderful partnerships it has found in the community and continues to watch in amazement as the community steps up to support youth experiencing homelessness. Lucas, comments, “It’s been really amazing building this partnership with Cedar Grove over the past year. They’ve worked with our students to offer them jobs at their company and are always encouraging students to apply at their locations. Their employees took the time to come visit our garden in Columbia City to learn from the students about how we utilize their products to grow fresh and sustainable foods for the community. It’s been such a pleasure working with Karen and the rest of the Cedar Grove team.” 

As for what the YouthGrow students think? “It’s amazing how much we can get done with all this help.”

It takes a village, and as a village, we are better.


For more information about YouthGrow, visit this page or email lucas.thompson@youthgrow.com.