Their neighborhood was in poor health. These amazing teens changed that.
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Dignity Health

In February 2018, a South Los Angeles community gathered to celebrate some local heroes: teenage agriculturists.

The event was the grand opening of a brand new, state-of-the-art greenhouse on the John C. Fremont High School campus.

This greenhouse is custom designed and optimized with the latest technology for plant growth and education. The vents are computerized. The blinds open and close by themselves, depending on the brightness of the sun.


This facility might sound like something you'd find in Beverly Hills. But it's in South L.A., which has the highest rates of poverty and lowest rates of health in Los Angeles County.

In other words, the place is unlike anything this area has seen before.

The community garden at Fremont High School. All images courtesy of UMMA Community Clinic.

That's why city officials, community organizations, and local residents came together for the grand opening. It symbolized the growth of a neighborhood that was severely lacking green spaces and is now being transformed through healthy food and community.

The greenhouse is the newest addition to Fremont Wellness Center and Garden, which opened in 2012 on an unused lot at the high school. The whole project includes a community clinic, community garden, and small park, and the neighborhood youth are spearheading its mission.

When it comes to resources, South L.A. students and their low-income neighborhoods are overlooked far too often — but not with Fremont Wellness Center and Garden.

It began as a vision for safe and open green spaces as well as quality health services for students and the surrounding neighborhood.

So the Fremont Wellness Center and Garden's creators started the Gardening Apprenticeship Program — or GAP — which teaches students about gardening, environmental science, and food justice.

GAP currently only works with 14 students at a time. But with the addition of the greenhouse, students can participate in a Regional Occupational Program (ROP) as well. About 60 students can take part in ROP, making an even greater impact on youth in the community.

The new greenhouse at Fremont Wellness Center and Garden.

For inner-city youth who would ordinarily have to travel to wealthier neighborhoods for safe, green spaces, this opens up exciting new possibilities.

They learn about the social issues affecting communities like theirs and how they are amplified by a lack of access to fresh food. They also learn how to grow their own organic food, which helps improve their community's health and wellness.

"They learn more about agriculture and learn more about the field and get the professional experience to hopefully, one day, go into this field," says Keshia Sexton, director of organizing at the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust.

And exciting events, like the greenhouse grand opening, allow the students to showcase their hard work for the community.

"It was definitely a student program and a student celebration for this new state-of-the-art resource that's now on Fremont campus," Sexton says of the grand opening ceremony. Presentations included a Fremont High School drill team performance and speakers from L.A. Unified School District, with photographers present to capture it all.

Ribbon-cutting at the greenhouse grand opening ceremony.

The program has been transformative for the youth involved, and one special speaker, Tiani, a GAP student, demonstrated that transformation.

"[She] spoke about how the program impacted her and made her a stronger advocate and gave her the confidence she needs to really succeed," Sexton recalls.

And she is not the only participating student to feel this way. The students' experiences and knowledge provided a crucial perspective on food equity. Their recommendations helped shape the future of their communities as well as offering expertise gained through education and lived experience with fresh foods.

"It's a healing space, and it's a space for folks to enjoy nature," Sexton says. "But it's also a learning space and a civic engagement space, where people are getting activated in being part of the solution for addressing the food inequity."

Fremont High School students at the new greenhouse.

This program helps empower young people to be part of the solution, advocate for their communities' needs, and get healthy food growing in underserved neighborhoods that really need it. And their impact is already significant.

Their South L.A. neighbors now have new resources for healthier living within walking distance.

For example, the community clinic offers medical care for all ages at low to no cost, which will likely help improve overall health of the local population. The clinic is also hosting a free, biweekly farmers market open to the community. Healthy eating plays a critical role in preventative health care; nutritious foods can help prevent things like diabetes and high cholesterol.

The UMMA Community Clinic farmers market.

It's no wonder these students are so proud to show off their work. This is an incredible model that could inspire resources for healthy living in urban areas throughout the country.

In South L.A., Fremont High School students now get to enjoy the fruits of their hard work. They're not only eating fresh food that they've grown themselves, but they're also realizing the impact that they can make on their community.

When imagining what it means to have green spaces in urban areas, most people might imagine a park or garden. But with a model like this, green spaces can be hubs of wellness, community, and education.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less