Letter: Ending Farm and Garden would be major loss

To the editor:

I am a 16-year-old sophomore at Pittsfield High School. I am heartbroken to learn that the Trump administration is proposing to eliminate funding for 21st Century Learning Centers, which provides after-school programs for 1.6 million youth nationwide. I am one of those youth, and this is my story.

For the past year, I have been part of The Farm and Garden Program, which is run by Berkshire Botanical Garden and offered through 21st Century. We build school gardens and run farm stands to raise money for charity.

People might not realize this, but Farm and Garden is more than just an after-school program. It's a place where I can be myself and feel welcomed just as I am. It's a place where I can be surrounded by people I trust and care about, where I work side by side with people that have become like family to me. As someone who struggles with anxiety, Farm and Garden has become a place where I can forget about my problems and feel positive, confident, and happy. In Farm and Garden, we all work together as a team — no one is ever alone.

And it's not just me. 21st Century programs like Farm and Garden mean so much to many of us youth. They provide activities to keep us out of trouble. They teach skills that help us be successful in the future. 21st Century also provides snacks, which is important because not all of us have access to healthy food at home. Finally, 21st Century helps with high school graduation rates. Students who have missed school because of struggles in their lives can earn back attendance credit by participating in a 21st Century program.

I am so worried about losing Farm and Garden, as well as all other 21st Century programs. Where else can I learn life skills such as cooking and making healthy food choices? Where else can I learn to garden and grow ingredients for my food from scratch? Where else can I learn to run a monthly farm stand? These are the skills that I'll need when I'm on my own.

I have never enjoyed anything as much as I enjoy being in Farm and Garden Program. It has brought joy and warmth to my heart every week. Please President Trump, do not take that away from me.

Julianna Martinez,



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