Starting Young: Youth Working to Beautify Bridgeport

By Taylor Mayes, CRCJ Communications Coordinator

On Wednesday April 3rd I was excited to head over to Groundwork Bridgeport (GWB) for the afternoon to observe and highlight some of the work that Christina, Groundwork Bridgeport’s Executive Director, Tanner GWB’s Program Coordinator, and their students are doing.

I thought Groundwork Bridgeport, who’s mission is to beautify and revitalize Bridgeport CT while providing opportunities for local youth to learn and engage with their community, would be great to highlight given my focus on uplifting diverse environmental voices while also connecting to the Roundtables’ work on educating and uniting Connecticut communities around environmental and economic justice.

On the afternoon I visited, I had the pleasure of meeting two of GWB’s most active students: Kirsten and Kylie – who were working on a project for a vacant lot on the East Side of Bridgeport. I was immediately amazed at the extent of their knowledge about Landscape Design. Kirsten was particularly well versed on the topic of plant selection and taught me some of the things you have to consider when laying out plants in a space: such as a plant’s height, shade tolerance, soil type, invasive species, allopathic plants which can contaminate the soil, color schemes, plant species and more! And I could tell Kylie was an amazing artist, taking her time with her sketching and laying out the different components of the design.

While Kirsten and Kylie are both proud natives and residents of Bridgeport, they both attend Trumbull High School’s Agriscience School. They shared with me their experience of stigma at Trumbull High towards students from Bridgeport, and how this only made them more passionate to contribute to making their city better. They have a deep love for Bridgeport’s culture, and they take a lot of pride in it – which helps them combat some of that stigma as well. I asked the girls about their dream jobs, knowing that this was a far-fetched question as they were only in the 10th grade, but was happy to find out that GW Bridgeport inspired an artistic side from Kylie and she’s now considering pursuing landscape design in college. Kirsten is interested in becoming a nurse or a vet. No matter what the girls do though, it’s good to know that they will always carry with them an appreciation for their environment along with them.

Just from my short visit, I could tell Groundwork Bridgeport fosters so much joy in their students and in the community around it. I’m looking forward to visiting again to see the development of Kylie and Kirsten’s project – I’m sure it will turn out beautifully.

Follow Groundwork Bridgeport’s Facebook Page for more updates on their work!

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Aisha K. Staggers
Author: Aisha K. Staggers

Provider of "proactive and strategic communications" with a solid background in print and digital journalism. Communications Director of Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs.