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It’s been an unusual summer for Green Visions, Greentopia’s job development program. A super-soaked spring and summer, along with some red-tape tangles, delayed the start of the season. Manager Morgan Barry said the Green Visions garden wasn’t tilled until late May, when it’s usually under cultivation by the first week in May. So some plants, notably a major crop of zinnias, are coming in a month late and all at once.

Rather than trying to conduct business as usual in an unusual situation, the program is experimenting a bit. Green Visions is still a job development program for young people 16-22 in the Northwest quadrant of Rochester, one of the poorest sections of a city where half the kids live in poverty. But with expertise growing in the staff and the job-skills participants, the site in the JOSANA Neighborhood can also offer more. A cut-your-own-bouquet event scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 19, for instance. Visitors can walk away with their own cut flowers, or can rely on the expertise of managers Morgan Barry and Tiani Jennings to make a beautiful arrangement.

Other developments:

  • Greentopia purchased additional land adjacent to the main garden lot (797 Smith St.)
  • A learn-to-drive program is being added to the program later in the growing season, adding another key skill young people need to to secure regular employment.
  • A grant from the Developmentally Disabled Giving Circle at Rochester Area Community Foundation is allowing students who’ve aged out of Edison Technical High School’s program for disabled students to continue working – and, more importantly, getting paid – in the Green Visions program. (Most of the 16 program participants are from the neighborhood, but a couple spots are set aside for developmentally disabled disabled youngsters, who have an even harder time gaining job skills and employment.)

“It’s bringing back graduates and keeping their momentum going,” Barry said.

One such graduate is Frank Graham, 22, who returned this summer to work with Green Visions for a second year. He listed planting, watering, fertilizing, working hard and getting along with people as some of the things he’s learned.

“I’m a workaholic. It’s good, though,” Graham said. At home, his mother doesn’t like him to leave the house. Working with Greentopia gets him out into the sunlight. “It’s better than being in my room, cooped up,” he said.

Ideally, Green Visions graduates will take what they’ve learned over 20 weeks in the growing season and apply it to year-round jobs. Angela Tye, 22, has her sights set on a job in a garden department at a place like Home Depot or Wal-Mart. “I know what to do now. I know what the flowers need, what the plants need,” she said.

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