Midsummer is a harvest time for California gardens and this year young gardeners at Phoenix House Academy in Los Angeles will see the fruit of their work for the first time. Gardening was introduced to our facility in Lake View Terrace in 2012 when Big Sunday, a non-profit organization, generously provided a grant and extended initial support for the organic gardening project. In establishing the new garden, Phoenix House also received extensive assistance from Sylmar High School’s agriculture teacher, Steve List. Mr. List kindly provided our facility with resources such as rich soil, vegetables, fruit, and flower seeds.
The garden is overseen by Cynthia Castillo, Community Service Counselor and West Side Story Project Coordinator at the Academy. Working together with Rob Regis, Ms. Castillo manages community service outings as well as attend community service meetings to forge new collaborations with the Academy and create outlets for the teens’ energy. She encourages teens to learn new skills in order to help them expand their horizons, build their self-esteem, and steer away from drugs. She does a splendid job motivating teens to expand their interests and engage in a variety of activities, including the garden. With tips and oversight from Ms. Castillo, the teens are developing a green thumb, tending to strawberries, tomatoes, chilies, peppers, eggplants, thyme, and basil.
Ms. Castillo ensures that all youth members are positively engaged while gardening. Many teens remember their childhood while they are planting vegetables and herbs in the garden. They share stories and talk about how certain foods or plants remind them of a grandparent, dad, or a favorite aunt. Gardening also teaches the students new abilities and the responsibility of nurturing living organisms.
It brings Ms. Castillo great satisfaction to see teens take on a new skill, especially when they are motivated to accomplish their goals. Once teens have successfully grown ripe fruit and vegetables, they are allowed to enjoy the results of their labor. The produce is especially delicious and healthy, because no pesticides or herbicides have been used in their cultivation. After the growers have their pick of the harvest, the remaining produce and herbs are donated to the kitchen staff, who cooks meals for all 110 teens living at the Academy. Who knows, maybe one of these teen’s talent could lead to becoming the next Top Chef or Martha Stewart?
Gardening is just one among the many enrichment activities available to teenagers enrolled in residential treatment for substance abuse and mental health at the CARF-accredited Phoenix House Academy in Lake View Terrace. In addition to attending high school classes and treatment activities, teens enjoy cultural, sports and wellness activities. They have a fully-equipped professional music studio on site, and participate in theater, creative writing, Aztec dancing, and a variety of sports and fitness activities, such as annual basketball and soccer leagues, and even deep-sea fishing!
If you would like to find out more about the Academy or would like to refer a child or a loved one to our treatment, please call our Call Center, at 1 888 671 9392 and you will receive the answers that you need. Most major insurance plans are accepted, as well as private pay with affordable rates.