Farrington's Extend Program - Hear from our Teen Staff
By Susan Taylor, Farrington Trustee and Clerk
Until Rebeca was 17, she spent most afternoons on her mother’s couch in a small apartment and watched cooking shows on TV. That summer, she took a job as a junior staffer at Farrington-Nature Linc, and her life began to change.
“At Farrington, I’m out of my comfort zone -- outdoors all the time,” she said. “I’m actually doing something, not waiting for Chef (Gordon) Ramsey.”
Now a college junior studying biology, Rebeca is a self-motivated, active young woman with an appetite for adventure and a new appreciation for the natural world.
“There’s always something new you didn’t know was there like the massive rock deep in the woods or the yellow frog we found with weird black eyes, like mascara eyes,” she said.
For many of the urban teenagers on Nature Linc’s junior staff, the experience isn’t only their first immersion in nature, but it’s also their first serious job commitment. Their summer experience is one path of Farrington’s program offerings.
The “Pathways to Farrington” program offers three levels of connection to nature ranging from the introductory experience of group field-trips to the extended relationship that the Nature Linc summer staff enjoy. Farrington’s “Extend” pathway promotes responsibility to protect green spaces and encourages leadership to build community in urban as well as natural areas.
Working around wildlife has given Van, a high school senior, new appreciation for sharing the world with other creatures, even in the city.
“Back home when I see an animal like a spider, I don’t go crush it,” Van said. “Now I know it’s his natural habitat. I say, ‘Let it be.’”
He also learned he can accomplish new skills and take responsibility.
“I come here, I know what to do. I can handle the chickens now, no problem,” he said, recalling his initial fear of fluttering feathers. “When the kids ask me questions, I can tell them the names of some of the plants and what they’re for.”
For Maya, now a college freshman, the first years as a Nature Linc staffer helped her develop personal skills and leadership experience.
“I’ve learned to be kind when I used to get so frustrated,” said Maya, who greets every question with a broad smile. “I was always the one to be quick to answer back when someone came at me. But now, when there’s that one kid with a spicy attitude, I say, ‘Hey friend, come over here and be my buddy. You and I are going to go together.’ It works.”
Feeling comfortable in the woodlands, fields, ponds, and gardens at Farrington and becoming role models for younger children from inner-city neighborhoods has been transformative for many teenagers when they develop a sense of belonging to a wider world.
No better example than Anthony, age 23, who said he “came out of my shell” at Farrington. His experience working with children at Nature Linc helped him qualify for his current year-round job at an after-school program.
“I was so different when I first came here. I was all closed up,” he said. “Here, it’s peaceful. You don’t have to worry about what’s going on at home. I’ve learned to open myself up, talk to people.”
Anthony said he hopes everyone who has worked at Farrington over the years will share a bond with the place, the program, and each other.
“If I ever get married and have my own family, I’m going to bring them out here,” he said. “I’ll say “Come with your Dad and see the spruce forest and chickens,’ and I’ll say, ‘This is what your Dad did. Your Dad worked here.’”
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