Playwright Lynn Nottage tells a compelling, story of redemption through her stage drama called Clyde’s. I picked up the script a few weeks ago and gave it a quick read through. In it we find a sandwich shop that employs returning citizens eager to create their own perfect sandwich in a tense kitchen environment. All sorts of ingredients are up for grabs in their imagined quest. There’s garden fresh thyme, caramelized fennel, chopped lemongrass, and even the old standby – peanut butter and jelly.  One character describes a sandwich as, “… the culmination of a long hard journey that began with a wheat seed cultivated by a farmer thousands of years ago.” He encourages his peers to pause, and they slowly begin to make connections between their own personal hopes and the wider world through the food they make together.

I have come to appreciate the gritty and raw story that is Clyde’s. I’ve let the words of the script become a mirror to what we are doing here at New City Neighbors. While we don’t make sandwiches in our cafe, there relevant questions to think through. Are we honoring the journey of the seed, from generations of cultivation to the soil of our farm, to the prep stations in our kitchen? Are the youth we serve making real world connections between their labor and the hope they want to raise for their neighborhood? Are we here just to replicate workers in our own image, or are we empowering youth to reach their full potential?

Just this week I sat with five of our youth going through leadership training. They’re currently imagining what might be their own personal mission statement as they consider what they’ve learned about themselves in our programs. I can’t tell you how cool it is to hear them talk about environmental sustainability, encouraging other youth to become life-long learners, and raising the self-esteem of their peers. These youth are training within a diverse group of teens, discussing practical solutions for social issues, while gaining work skills through our farm and café. And did I mention they earn early college credit through our leadership training?

One of our teens, Sasha, is actively coming up through our leadership program. Reflecting on her learning and experience she says, “Some changes I would like to see in the community are definitely related to gentrification. I believe all things should be equal when it comes to the community. Being at New City Neighbors has helped me in a lot of ways, but it helped me grow as a leader in speaking up and it definitely helped me figure out what I want to do in life.”

There’s certainly always room to grow, but at this point in the short history of our organization, I the evidence that we’re on the right path. This year is coming to a close, and if you have not accepted the invitation already, we invite you to join in the transformative journey our teens experience at our farmhouse. Please give generously and help us reach our year-end goal. We’re almost there and your gift will make an impact as we close out the season. Click here to donate.

Thanks you for your gift and happy holidays.

Ricardo Tavárez, Executive Director