YEA’s Latest Project: Community Medicinal Garden

Starting February 14th, Youth for Environmental Action began working on a community medicinal garden project. Our student-led leadership group, Youth for Environmental Action, is supported by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and has the goal of increasing connections between youth and administrative/community based efforts focused on environmental sustainability and the implementation of local communal changes.

Our primary goal for the garden is to spread awareness about the practical benefits of plants and connect our community to nature. We chose to focus on medicinal plants because they are essential to human health, have been used long before America was colonized, and they show how imperative the preservation of nature is to the human population. We are excited about exposing students and community members to the garden in hopes of providing a peaceful space, along with inspiring them to care about the environment.

Some potential sites we’ve been looking into are Alternative High School programs run by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education in the Watsonville/Freedom area and one in Santa Cruz, as well as local land trust parcels. We will prioritize communities that have a lack of access to green spaces in our county. 

We plan to use the pre-existing networks established by the COE for developing community connections with relevant organizations. To begin we will find a plot of land. Then, we will research medicinal, native plants in the Santa Cruz County region and plan on meeting with Chairman Valentin Lopez of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band for his insight and guidance on our project. Next, we will collect donations and purchase the materials needed for building the garden, and then start building it as a group. We plan to have the community volunteer alongside us.

 We are extremely excited to see the impact that this garden will have on its local community. We plan on using the small grant Youth for Environmental Action has received from the Stevens Initiative Alumni Small Grants to its greatest extent, however in order to accomplish this project we will need donated resources. If there are any local gardeners with extra supplies or tools, YEA would greatly appreciate it. If you are interested in volunteering or have materials you are willing to donate, please email:

This article is by Santa Cruz County students Lena Jones, Avonlea Harwood and Emily Macias, members of Youth for Environmental Action. The community garden project is funded by: The Stevens Initiative Alumni Small Grants: The Experiment Digital, an international effort to build global competence and career readiness skills for young people in the United States, the Middle East and North Africa.