Dennis Wallace, Jeneen Watson, Jonathan Sileneieux, Rhane King, Cherese Waight and Matt Ryan Photo by Mary Mumbrue

On a sweltering July day, five students in the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program were hard at work at their job tending the Edible Acre, a joint initiative of Evanston Township High School and The Talking Farm, a local not-for-profit organization.

The journey for these five ETHS students began on April 21, when they joined more than 500 others who lined up at 6:30 a.m. outside of the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave., for a day of interviews at the annual Summer Youth Job Fair. After selecting three areas of interest for job possibilities, filling out job applications and participating in interviews, they learned by checking an Internet site provided by the City what their summer job would be.

The garde located in the 1600 block of Dodge Avenue across from the Beardsley wing of ETHS, was the summer work-site for Jeneen Watson (junior), Cherese Waight (freshman), Dennis Wallace (freshman), Rhane King (freshman) and Jonathan Sileneieux (sophomore). They have worked there every day, five days a week, in this, one of the hottest summers on record, under the supervision of Matt Ryan. Mr. Ryan is on the ETHS staff and is an assistant at the Talking Farm. He is working toward a certificate in urban agriculture, which is part of the Windy City Harvest program through the Chicago Botanic Gardens.

The ETHS students have watered the garden, weeded plots and harvested cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow crook-neck squash, chard, zucchini, beets, salad greens, spinach, parsley and basil that were used by the ETHS cafeteria during the summer session. The extra produce is donated to food pantries in the area. On July 27, the students harvested vegetables for the Edible Acre booth at the downtown Farmers’ Market the next day. Mr. Ryan and Linda Kruhmin, farm operations coordinator for The Talking Farm, helped the students set up their booth, which attracted much activity.

The money raised by selling the produce will be used to fund the program, which offers locally grown food, as well as job training, leadership opportunities and environmental education.

The Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program will end where it began: at the Morton Civic Center. The public is invited to an award ceremony that will begin at 6 p.m. in the Parasol Room on Aug. 3. Each participating student will receive a certificate of recognition.