CYC Youth Head to White House to Accept Award Recognizing their Peace Garden

UPDATE: Here's a photo of our students on stage with their awards. You can see more photos on Facebook.

And here's a video clip of our students accepting the President's Environmental Youth Award!

We are so #proudtobeCYC! Congratulations, CYC Sunshine Garden Club!


On August 15, six members of Chicago Youth Centers’ Sunshine Garden Club at CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center in North Lawndale will pack their bags, don their CYC t-shirts, and pile into a van for the biggest field trip of the summer: a trip to the White House. The group will travel to Washington, D.C. to accept the President’s Environmental Youth Award for their community garden. Presented by the Environmental Protection Agency, this award recognizes outstanding environmental projects designed and implemented by K-12 youth nationwide. Chicago Youth Centers is one of 18 national winners and one of two in its region. The ceremony will take place August 16 at the White House. The CYC Board of Directors immediately came forward to fund this trip.

The garden program at CYC focuses on growth: the growth of our children, and the growth of the North Lawndale community. “In the CYC garden, children experience their impact in the community and on the environment,” said Kimberly George, CYC Youth Worker and the project’s coordinator. “When our children learn to think critically about where to plant to get the best sun, collaborate with their peers, and give back to the larger community, they grow up to be strong, successful leaders.”

Creating positive change in the community is a large part of CYC's garden program in North Lawndale. The community has the second highest crime rate among Chicago’s 77 community areas, and is considered a "food desert," an area with a dearth of grocery stores and options for fresh produce. The garden, designed and planted by CYC youth, is a respite from violence and food insecurity. Sheltered between a row of trees and the Center, youth read on benches or look for butterflies that dart between the reflecting pool and sunflowers beds. They also harvest the fruits, vegetables, and flowers and donate them to neighbors in need.

For all of the CYC children traveling to D.C., this trip will be their first to the nation’s capital. For most, it will be their first trip outside of Chicago. “Many of our youth lack the resources to travel outside of their neighborhoods. Poverty and exposure to violence can limit children's experiences and undermine their dreams,” said Roberta Douglas, the Center Director at CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center. “To travel to D.C. and accept an award at the White House is an incredible achievement. These youth will grow up knowing they can overcome hurdles, reach their goals, and make an impact.

We will continue to share stories and pictures from the garden and from their trip. Follow along on social media under the hashtag #CYCinDC.