“But most of all, I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and trying new things that most girls would never even dream about doing.” -Yajaira Suchite, CSU Apprentice
Community Services Unlimited (CSU) fosters community-based work to address the inequalities and systemic barriers to healthy lifestyles. CSU supports and creates justice-driven programs and educational initiatives to foster dialogue and create awareness and critical consciousness. The guiding vision is of self-reliant, equitable, healthy and sustainable communities where every person has the support and resources they need to develop to their fullest capacity.
The CSU Community Food Village Project, developed based on outcomes of a participatory community-wide food assessment, aims to create a sustainable local food system where food is grown, distributed and bought within the community, and incorporating training and educational programs, job creation, and partnerships with regional farmers. CSU youth programs include Growing Healthy, a school-based nutrition and agricultural education project, and From the Ground Up, an internship and apprenticeship program for teens and young adults with training in farming and gardening, entrepreneurship, and personal and leadership development. The Village Marketplace markets produce grown at CSU’s urban mini-farm sites and from local farmers throughout the community. Finally, CSU promotes alternative fuels and other sustainable transportation with a fleet that includes the Veggie Bus (a school bus that has been converted to run recycled vegetable oil), a veggie powered work truck, and pool of bicycles.
My Experience as an Apprentice
Coming back to work with Community Services Unlimited was a great experience for me. I learned more about plants and herbs, and about how to be a better role model and work together with other younger youth. … I also learned that trying and learning something new doesn’t hurt and that it can turn out to be beneficial.
Because I had done an internship with CSU, I already knew about some plants, but during my apprenticeship, I became more familiar with nature. I will especially never forget calendula because I talked about it to so many people, I did research on it, and probably planted a million seeds. I learned that calendula and many others can be used as medicine for the body. … I learned how to harvest herbs and how to prepare them for tea. And I learned that every herb has its special talent: some are used to release stress, others are used as medicine, and some are used in cooking.
At the beginning, I mostly worked with CSU staff, but when a new round of interns – younger teens – came, I got to work with them a lot. It was a good experience to meet new kids and share knowledge about gardening and life. On another project, there was a point where I had to take responsibility for planning and carrying out training sessions, but I took care of it and it turned out to be a great leadership building experience.
Public speaking has been a real challenge and success for me during the apprenticeship. At first, I was very shy and I didn’t like presenting in front of all those people at the workshops. But I guess I could say that those same people motivated me. When I saw them paying attention and helping me out, I got the courage to keep going, no matter how nervous I was. … Now when I present, I still get nervous, but I’m not as shy and I know that if I keep practicing, I will get better. Like people say, practice makes perfect.
Overall in my apprenticeship, I had fun learning new things, working with new plants and herbs, and meeting new people. Even though I was nervous most of the time when I was presenting, I know that the practice will help me in the future, in my own career. But most of all, I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and trying new things that most girls would never even dream about doing.
-Yajaira Suchite, CSU Apprentice
Eat healthy is how to be, but once I get up it’s hard to think
Junk food, junk food is all I see
I really used to like that golden arch symbol every time I blink
Going green, going green it’s really the way to be
But early in the morning that’s what I don’t see
Sunrise bananas is what I used to eat
But zesty, tangy onion rings is what it seems to be
Going green, going green, eating healthy is the way to be
-Irene Mason, CSU youth
Community Service Unlimited Inc.
1344 ½ West Martin Luther King Blvd.
Los Angeles, California