TWP_GardenAmityLocal youth join the world wide efforts of world changers on Global Youth Service Day by creating an urban paradise in a troubled community. Global Youth Service Day (GBYSD) provides volunteers with an opportunity to involve local youth in activities to foster change and become active members of their communities.  Teens With a Purpose (TWP) will be working on a project that combines service, environment, peace and harmony.  The VCM Teen center, where Teens With a Purpose is headquartered, is nestled in a community in Downtown Norfolk in a volatile neighborhood.  Teens will use the garden as just one of the ways they plant seeds of love, inspiration, community and family. On Global Youth Service Day, April 12th, Teens With a Purpose will kick-off the garden with a fun garden party. Teens will come together to get the garden ready for the season by watching the documentary created by the previous year’s teen gardeners, learn about nutrition, cleaning the outdoor space, create garden art and begin planting seeds of vegetables, fruits and more.  This year the teens will add a Bird sanctuary that includes bird feeders, bird baths and a wild flower garden to attract butterflies.  The event will take place on Saturday, April 12th at the Vivian C Mason Teen Center, 12-3pm, where the garden will receive its official name – The Garden of Amity. The garden has naturally become a safe haven of harmony, unity and friendship, which is perfect for the name which means friendship; peaceful harmony.  The garden is sustained through donations for the local gardening community including Tess Amaruso, a Visual Arts with a big heart for nature.  There are several local individuals and organizations that will be joining forces to support the youth on GYSD. Officer Ali Williams, Young Audiences of Virginia, E.R. Camp and Health Food Centers will be helping facilitate ffc_logo_transparent400the various elements of the day such as nutritional workshop with healthy snacks, garden art, cleaning the garden area and planting some of the seeds and plants for the season. This year Teens With a Purpose is the recipients of the Disney’s Friends for Change Grant through TWP Teen leader and Youth Advisory Board Member, Khayla Walker. Khayla Walker, a Bayside High School 12th grade student, was one of many successful applicants around the world to receive a $500 Disney’s Friends for Change grant supporting youth-led environmental initiatives for Global Youth Service Day (GYSD), the largest service event in the world, April 11-13. “While we work together, we are changing the world and our local community because peace, happiness and a spirit of harmony is amongst us,” said Khayla. Disney’s Friends for Change: Project Green ( is a program that encourages young people to take steps together with their friends to help the planet. The grants, administered by Youth Service America (YSA), offer youth the resources they need to bring environmental initiatives to life for their local communities.


A hands-on project that challenged campers to focus on the things in their lives that they want to; plant (add), water (develop) or weed (take out) in their lives.

Teens With a Purpose plants seeds of love, inspiration, community and family. TWP starts the first community garden at the Vivian C. Mason Teen Center with a salad garden where youth grew tomatoes, basil, green peppers, zucchini, eggplant, watermelon and onions. Teens started the garden with several mentors including a Visual Artist, a Master Gardner, a builder and a Norfolk Police Officer. The Teen gardeners rejoiced and played instruments and danced as they planted the seeds in small planters later moved to a transformed parking island garden.

The program brought together teens and community members.   While promoting healthy eating this garden project also planted a different seed.  Growing their own food inspired a mind-shift in these budding urban gardeners.  Teens transformed from mere consumers to producers!  These young people began exploring the roll of producers who are responsible for and capable of sustaining life, caring for the earth and providing food for themselves and for others.   This process opened the door to entrepreneurship.  They built the garden from start to finish in every aspect.  It was lots of hard work and labor, but the results were well worth it! At the beginning of each day, teens were given the opportunity to work in the community garden at the Vivian C Mason Teen Center. Alternating between planting, watering, and weeding, sessions occur amid gardening time and personal growth time. Campers met in small groups to discuss and or journal on HOW’S IT GROWING where the focus is on the things in their lives that they want to; plant (add), water (develop) or weed (take out) in their lives.

Youth have been documenting the process. Photos are posted via social media sites such as Twiter, Facebook and Instagram using hashtags #iamgreen and #twpgarden. The teens have taken video footage and the video is now available on

The TWP Garden sessions are held every Tuesday evening and continue all year-long as part of Teens With a Purpose program. The teens just recently planted Collard Greens for the winter harvest.

Special thanks to: Tess Amoruso, Jonathan Ramirez, Deb Lassiter, Master Gardner; Officer Ali Williams, City of Norfolk Police and Raymond Copeland, of the Boys & Girls Club.