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Growing a Sense of Self in the Garden

Meet LT, educator, inspiring creator, and Youth Education mentee.  


Recently, our Youth Education Department partnered with Urban Peak, a Denver-based nonprofit dedicated to ending youth houselessness in Colorado through housing assistance and paid mentorship experiences. They partner with organizations that give their clients job skills that can be utilized in their careers. DUG’s partnership provided our mentees with knowledge on plant propagation and care that could be utilized in a horticulture career pathway. Our primary mentee, a young man named LT, worked alongside our educators to cultivate two sensory plots and one food-producing plot at our Fairview Community Garden throughout the spring and summer of 2023.

As we worked side-by-side with him, his passion for caring for this magical place that he helped create was palpable. With his trademark thoughtfulness and delicate touch, he worked to care for compacted soil, routinely watered the parched plants, and relayed his teachings in beautifully written essays. His dedication to the land, the plants, and the people that we gardened alongside with exceeded our expectations. With a remarkable ability to empathize, he viewed even the weeds that we had spent hours plucking from our plots as having a purpose. In one of his written reflections on a day in the garden, he wrote “Weeds are all unique just like every other plant”. What had started as a paid mentorship in creating and maintaining sensory gardens evolved into a point of pride and introspection for LT.  

At the end of the program, we presented his inspiring words at our annual Gather Round event. Despite his hatred of having his photo taken, he watched himself on-screen grinning from ear to ear. “Being involved in this organization, it really gives me higher hopes. This is people helping other people…if we can get more organizations like this out there, I feel like the future will be so much brighter”. 

As the summer wore on and fall began to rear its head, we prepared for our season and partnership to come to its natural end. While every growing season presents us with moments of reflection and learning, this one felt especially enriching. Not only had we watched the countless zinnias and marigolds LT had taken such gentle care of bloom into a magnificent flurry of colors, but we also witnessed the self-determination of not only a brilliant gardener but a brilliant individual. 

Want to get involved with our Youth Education team through volunteering, mentorship, or supporting our school-based community gardens? Learn more on our website.