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Earth Care’s community garden attracts locals of all ages and experience levels.
Alexa Schirtzinger

Green Legacy

Earth Care’s youth-driven sustainability

March 12, 2013, 12:00 am

 BJ Davis is full of infectious energy. And since taking over as executive director of Earth Care last year, she’s been channeling that energy into new ideas for this youth-oriented environmental nonprofit.

“My partner moved here in 2009—that’s how it begins, right?” she laughs. Davis eventually followed, and one day, she “got a call out of the blue” suggesting she apply for a job at Earth Care.

“I’m like, ‘Great, OK…I’m not particularly looking, but I’ll look into it,” she says. “So I went online and I looked up Earth Care, and I read what they’re doing, and I said, ‘I’m in. This is great. I love the mission.’”

That mission: “to educate and empower young people to create healthy, just and sustainable communities.”
Davis says what makes Earth Care “really unique…is that our programming is really created by our youth.”

Earth Care runs four key programs: Youth Allies, in which local youth conceive, organize and complete their own sustainability-oriented service projects; K-12 outreach in several local schools; a summer camp; and an after-school garden program.

“We really try to be led by the youth and the youth voice,” Davis says.

In Youth Allies, for instance, kids ages 13-19 spend the school year working on (and educating their peers about) a service project they’ve selected.

“There are all these components to this—a teaching component, a learning component, a service component,” Davis says. “Not only does it give them the skills to be successful and feel empowered; it gives them the confidence to know they can create a goal and then…actually produce it.” Over the project’s seven-year history, she says, some 50 kids have successfully completed their projects.

Earth Care also works with AmeriCorps volunteers to implement food-security programs in local schools, mainly in lower-income areas.

“One of the myths about Earth Care is that…[we] work with all the middle-upper-class white kids on growing gardens,” Davis says. “Over the last three years, our demographics have shifted, because we’ve intentionally moved to this neighborhood and these schools.”

Earth Care’s office, an unassuming building in Zona del Sol with a large garden area in back, is where Earth Care and Fine Art for Children and Teens host a joint summer camp. Earth Care also runs some of its after-school programs and hosts a community garden there.

These days, Davis is busy planning a series of events for Earth Week in April, including a global youth service day, the Art and Social Change youth film festival and a “Green Gala”. Ultimately, she’s hoping to expand Earth Care’s work into other parts of New Mexico.

“We have a really strong track record of the work we do here,” Davis says. “If we can make it a success here, and really empower youth to take up sustainability in their [own] communities, we’re only going to be able to strengthen more and more communities in New Mexico.”

Earth Care
6600 Valentine Way, Bldg. A, 983-6896

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