Upon meeting in January at the SWF installation at the Chicago City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower, SWF Executive Director Emmanuel Pratt and Sarah Gleisner, Program Officer of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program with the Institute of International Education (IIE), began to explore opportunities for potential collaboration between the Fulbright Foreign Student Program Seminar on Youth Engagement and Empowerment and Sweet Water Foundation for the spring of 2015. Given Fulbright’s mission to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and other countries and SWF’s mission is to democratize, globalize, and commercialize urban agriculture practices for resilient 21st century communities via hands-on, real-world learning grounded in concepts of community, equity, transformation and resilience, both Sarah and Emmanuel recognized a tremendous opportunity for cross pollination across the programs.
On both Friday March 20th and Saturday March 21st, approximately 80 of the 140 Fulbright scholars joined by Megan Spillman, the IIE Chicago Director participated in site visits to the Perry Ave Community Farm, the Think-Do House, and the CSU Aquaponics Center. On Saturday March 21st, 40 of the Fulbright students from 30 different countries worked directly with the SWF team, local residents, and Orrin Williams from the Center for Urban Transformation on the Perry Ave Community Farm helping to prepare for the 2015 harvest season.
Through the site visits and the community engagement event, the Fulbright participants had the opportunity to gain an understanding of the importance of aquaponics, local food systems, the Perry Ave Community Farm and the Think-Do House within the neighborhood and as a central component of the SWF’s model for neighborhood development along with the level of impact it has on the community.
The Chicago Fulbright Enrichment Seminar is one of eleven enrichment seminars hosted across the United States by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) as part of its flagship Fulbright Program. These enrichment seminars, an integral part of the Fulbright experience, benefit first-year Fulbright foreign students and support the overall mission of the Fulbright Program – to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
All of the participants in the community engagement project are in their first year of study and represent a variety of countries and academic backgrounds. The seminar featured lectures, panel discussions, site visits, community outreach, and volunteer opportunities. Through these events, participating students will explore current strategies to encourage young people to serve as positive leaders in shaping their lives and the lives of their community.
We are all extremely excited about following the potential impact that this experience will have on the Fulbright students, our team, and the community residents who participated on both days. As part of their participation in the Fulbright program, participants agree to return to their home countries and apply some of the lessons they have learned.
There Grows the Neighborhood!