Planting Seeds of Change Together
Melissa Tang, Director of Programs, CommunityGrows
As San Francisco is dealing with the consequences of unequal economic growth and gentrification, there is a greater need for communities to band together in solidarity.
I work for CommunityGrows, a small grassroots youth development organization grown out of the needs of residents from the Western Addition. Twenty-three years ago, residents came together to reclaim green spaces in the Western Addition. CommunityGrows cultivates gardens with over 1,300 youth each year in low-income diverse communities.
What I love about working for CommunityGrows is our emphasis on collaboration and building bridges with partners. Community development takes time, presence, persistence, active listening and patience. Being a small organization, we understand we need to depend on the strengths on our partners in order to achieve our overall mission. It’s through the Mo’ Magic Collaborative that organizations create and develop programming that address the needs of children, youth and their families in the Fillmore District and Western Addition communities.
At the Mo’ Magic meetings, we developed long term relationship and I know I can ask McCarthy Center staff for resources or to collaborate on community-wide projects. McCarthy Center staff attends all our community meetings and listens to what partners need. Here’s just a few ways how our impact is amplified through our partnership with McCarthy Center:
- Environmental Studies students and staff worked with us to maintain a garden at New Liberation Church and to develop workshops for our teen program.
- We partnered on joint community events like the Mind, Body and Soul health pop-ups, where we led a healthy cooking demo and gave away veggies from our gardens to residents we normally wouldn’t reach.
- We are recipients of USF’s Retired Technology program! For a the last two years, we were able to provide a workstation for each staff member and dedicated our funding towards programming.
During my time as a graduate student at USF (Masters of Nonprofit Administration, ‘16), I heard USF’s motto: Change the world from here. Through these partnerships, not only are students learning how to change the world in the neighborhood that surrounds the campus but they engage them in real problems that affect real people, people who happen to live directly next to the campus. There are a lot of dedicated folks who are doing great work to make changes in the Western Addition but they can’t do it alone. USF partnerships will strengthen the work of these organizations and provide education to students that a book can’t teach you. So when USF asks students to change the world from here, the change is not on USF’s campus, but right here in the neighborhood—in the Western Addition.