Gearing up for Summer!

Less than two weeks away from the beginning of our summer program and we are counting down the days!  Summer days at Y.O.U. are the epitome of exploration and discovery with bikes as our tools.  From upon our bikes the city transforms from a place that is familiar to a whole new world.  Our passionate instructors, guided by the curiosity of our youth, find a lesson and an adventure around every corner.

This summer we are lucky to be hosting over 120 youth from YW Kids, the RAPPP program, Nativity Prep, Our Sister’s School, and throughout the New Bedford community! This summer is sure to an exciting one for our kids; our schedule is already packed with adventures, near and far.  From UMass Dartmouth's School for Marine Science & Technology to Osprey Kayaks in Westport, our youth will be broadening their perspectives through new experiences from July 3rd up until the end of August.  Eight weeks barely seems enough to contain all of the fun, but once E.Y.E. rolls around we are at full speed until summer’s end.

It’s tough to describe a “typical” summer day at Y.O.U., but if we must… Each day the kids arrive to a warm welcome and a tasty treat, and then gear up for the day--strapping on their helmets, storing cold water bottles, and stuffing bags with the stuff of adventure (towels for swimming and sunblock, of course).  From there, “typical” goes out the window! Generally we ride around on the peninsula, making stops along the way as instructors see fit or as youth make requests. We harvest garden veggies, collect sea glass, pick flowers, bird watch, climb forts, swing at the playground, and laugh a lot along the way!  Each week usually includes a special field trip and a Friday afternoon at Clark’s Point Creamery.

We look forward to soaking up the sun and sea breeze, and getting to know some of the coolest kids in New Bedford this summer! Look out for us around the peninsula, it’ll be hard to miss the train of bikes spotted with neon yellow vested instructors and cheery kids shouting “left turn!” and “stopping” :) 

Urban Exploring

Spring Urban Explorers has come and gone quick as Fort Taber winds... we wish the rain had come and gone a lot quicker! Over the last few weeks we have had the pleasure of exploring the beautiful verdant peninsula of New Bedford’s South End with elementary school students from Gomes, Hathaway, and Our Sister’s School.  Biking is a hallmark program of Youth Opportunity Unlimited, harking back to our “Trips for Kids” days. Since day one we have used bikes as a tool for youth engagement and exploration, a way to open up the world and led children’s natural curiosity be our guide.

Our spring days have been a patchwork of experiences, one of the highlights being that we had the privilege of teaching several children how to ride a bicycle!  That’s that many more New Bedford youth who now have the ability to explore their city, maybe provide their own ride to school, and one day even get to and from work.  That is true freedom!

Some of our favorite stops during Spring Urban Explorers are along the coast.  Our instructors relish at the opportunity to follow a child’s gaze or question and create an opportunity for fun and learning.  An average afternoon ride might begin with a quick stop at the bike path entrance, where a small speck of beach is home to bright beach blossoms, tiny scurrying rock crabs, colorful sea glass and polished pebbles.  Here the kids have learned about marine biology, public infrastructure, ecology, and more.  From there, with instructors sprinkled in between, the line of kids snakes it’s way onto the bike path, looping up and around Fort Taber.  A stop at the playground is a must, where the kids love to play “Ninja Warrior Challenge”.  After cruising down a few hills we might make a stop at East Beach, if time allows, for a quick game of “nukum” or a toe-dip in the icy water.  But truly, it’s difficult to define “typical” at Y.O.U.--our youth direct our adventures, and each day is a surprise!

We all know how rainy this spring was, so that left us with more rainy days than our eager, bike-loving instructors would have liked.  Fortunately, biking isn’t all our staff has up their sleeves! From transplanting seedlings and painting stones, to playing knockout and four square, the Warming House is well-equipped for indoor fun. We may have also snuck out on a drizzly day or two to get our hands dirty in the garden..!

Rain or shine, springtime at Y.O.U. is guaranteed to be memorable. Though we already dearly miss our Spring Urban Explorers, now that we’ve got our spring biking program successfully wrapped up we eagerly looked forward to a Summer of YOUth “Exploring Your Environment”! Starting the first week of July keep your eyes out for us as we cruise around the South End.  See you at Fort Taber :)

Wilderness First Aid

The Greater New Bedford area is our adventure-packed domain, and after a two day certification course in Wilderness First Aid (WFA) our staff are fully prepared for whatever situation may come our way.  While Youth Opportunities Unlimited has a commitment to prevention, prevention, prevention, we want our staff to be as well trained as possible.  We are sure that our youth’s “grown-ups” will feel safer too knowing that, should an unexpected emergency arise, our staff have learned the protocols to manage and address the situation.  Safety, fun, and education...in that order; that is the Y.O.U. way!

The course that our eager staff attended was SOLO Wilderness First Aid sponsored by Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures (long-time friends of Y.O.U.!) and held at the beautiful Lloyd Center for the Environment in South Dartmouth, MA.  Through bouts of rain and a chilly wind Chance and Carissa learned the ins-and-outs of WFA, from assessing an injury for likelihood of spinal impact to treating dehydration. The hands on course focused on role play and critical thinking, assuring that participants will have the preparation to think on their feet in real time situations.

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Upon completion of the course our two staff participants were awarded their SOLO Wilderness First Aid certificates, and proceeded to share their new found knowledge with the rest of the Y.O.U. team.  Safety, fun and education aren’t just for our youth!  Learning is a constant goal for everyone at Y.O.U., as is team work.  Now that these new skills have been absorbed and shared what we most hope is that we never have to use them. :)

Sid Wainer & Son... & Gomes School!

“I’ve always wanted to come here!” “I thought this was a factory!” “My Dad used to work here!”  These exclamations announced our afternoon arrival to Sid Wainer & Son’s Gourmet Outlet on Purchase Street. While humble and unpresumptuous from the outside, what lies beyond the brick facade is anything but ordinary.  The outlet features exciting ingredients from around the world alongside foodie favorites from our very own South Coast, and is a food mecca for curious newbies and renowned chefs alike.  Now, it holds a special place in the hearts of 12 lucky Gomes Elementary students as well.

Our culminating Food for Thought adventure on April 12th delighted our youth’s minds and senses. Bullseye painted radishes and bold blood oranges decorated the generous spread that Allie Wainer and her crew spread across the outlet’s marble countertop, beckoning the kids over to their “Private Tasting”.  They were greeting with smiles and Sid Wainer caps, and got right to chowing down!

The culinary experience was a delight to the student’s senses and palates.  Within minutes we had a brand new batch of foodies exclaiming their love for crystal cave-aged cheddar and lindon berry preserve. “What is Marion berry?” I questioned one student, who had proclaimed it to be his absolute favorite. “Well it tastes like a cross between a strawberry and a black berry.” What thinkers we have!

Faces smudged with pure raw honey (a far cry from the syrup filled teddy bear brand) and mouths full of salty prosciutto, the kids were raring to check out the rest of the outlet.  With Vice President Allie Wainer as our cheerful guide, we were led through the front entrance and up a zigzag of stairs to a plateau marking the entrance to staff quarters.  “Wooooow!” The kids “oooh”’-ed and shoved as they gazed down at the outlet’s brand new packing and shipping room, eye’s wide as gourmet cheese wheels.  As far as we could see, shelves were stacked to the ceiling with boxes and crates.  Weaving between the rows were proud Sid Wainer employees decked out in green, atop little machines used to raise and stack crates in preparation for shipment.

We concluded our tour with a quick stop at the automatic hand washers (quite a hit) and a walk around the rest of the floor, complete with a cozy staff lunch room.  Chatter bounced off the walls throughout our walk.  “Where does this food come from?!” “Do you get bananas from Guatemala?” “My cousin used to drive so far when he worked here!” It’s amazing the organic connections and questions that arise when students are truly engaged. That is a lesson we are reminded of each day here at Y.O.U.!

Our Gomes School students were gifted at their departure with seasonal food guides, fresh fruit and a chunky dark chocolate cookie (which was gone before the bus pulled out of the lot).  Their eyes sparkled with joy as they proudly skipped to the bus with their Sid Wainer caps, bags and bellies!  Gomes School students are a very special bunch, and we couldn’t be more grateful to Allie Wainer and the Sid Wainer staff for creating such a memorable experience for our youth.  Broadening horizons is what we are all about at Y.O.U., and it is thanks to our many dedicated community partners that we can do this.  It may have been a first trip to Sid Wainer for many, but it certainly won’t be the last!

Food for Thought Hits the Road!

On Friday, April 7th, our OSS students culminated their participation in Y.O.U.’s “Food for Thought” program with a trip to UMASS Dartmouth, hosted by Executive Chef Kevin Gibbons.  Shrieks and cheers abounded as the girls made their way through the dining hall, snaked through the industrial sized kitchen (“They make HOW many pizzas a day?!”), and descended upon Chef Kevin’s pride and joy: the Freight Farm.

The first of it’s kind in the area, this converted shipping container uses a hydroponic system and LED lights to grow 1.5 acres of lettuce to make “farm fresh” veggies available students (and hungry little visitors) each day.  Their eyes lit up with excitement and their coats reflected neon purple as Chef Kevin shared lessons in sustainability and food security from among the hanging rows.  The mental gears were turning, and the dots the girls were connecting nearly sent sparks out their ears!  Little hands shot up one after another, filling the Y.O.U. staff with joy at the student’s interest and engagement. Could we possibly have more wonderful students?!

Following Freight Farm exploration the girls quickly shuffled back to the cafeteria, where they could barely control their giddiness at the sight of all-you-can-eat pizzas and crispy chicken fingers.  Several plates and a tower of ice cream bowls later, the girls had explored topics ranging from factory farming and whole foods to future careers and college plans.  Throughout human history, a meal is an invitation for a community to come together and nourish themselves with good food and great stories, and Y.O.U. is no different.

What an inspiration it is to see our students evolve through their time with us.  Through moments in the Grange Kitchen to trips to Alderbrook Farm, we’ve watched children return each week with more confidence and new skills.  There’s nothing like hearing a youngster share their excitement at being their family chef for a night, thanks to Food for Thought and our incredibly guest chefs.

Full bellies, new experiences and big smiles, that’s “Food for Thought”! We extend our most sincere gratitude to the many talented chefs who graced the Grange Kitchen and shared their passion with our youth.  Time has told us very clearly that these experiences are never forgotten. We look forward to what the warmer months and new programs have to bring us, and will be happy to start our kitchen fires once again this winter.