For the past 10 years, yes 10 years, Phil Rooney has been an indispensable part of the Youth Farm community. This past Friday marked Phil’s last day at Youth Farm and we wanted to take a moment to reflect on his journey and impact, as well as to say Thank You for all he has done for the youth in our neighborhoods and for our organization over the last decade.
Phil started his time at Youth Farm as an AmeriCorps member on the West Side of St. Paul, doing double duty between Youth Farm and the Jane Addams School. As his AmeriCorps time came to a close, Phil found ways to stay involved and engaged in Youth Farm, working for 4 years as a summer staff person on the West Side neighborhood program. During that time, Phil brought his skills in planning and youth work to both manage the Robert Street Farm, but also engage our Youth Farmers and leaders to have true ownership over their work and impact.
In 2009, when our Lyndale neighborhood program had an opening, we naturally encouraged Phil to apply. During the interview process, Phil stood out because of his ability to understand and engage around higher level youth development concepts and effectively incorporate them into lesson plans and his 1 on 1 and small group interactions with Youth Farmers. This is something we see very rarely, and something that Phil brought to Youth Farm every day for the next 7 years. From 2009 – 2015, Phil grew and developed the Lyndale Youth Farm, helped launch our Farm Stewards program, mentoring other young adult leaders to be great youth workers, and forged a multitude of important partnerships with neighborhood schools, businesses, and non-profit partners. In 2015, Phil transitioned to a new leadership role, becoming our first South Minneapolis Director of Programs. Over the last year, he has help build a new leadership structure that focuses on our Farm Stewards in program leadership roles in Lyndale and Powderhorn, and heightens our school year engagement.
For any of you that were there this past Wednesday at the Lyndale Neighborhood Harvest Festival and were able to hear many of the long time Youth Farmers, Project LEAD, and even former staff who came back just for the celebratory goodbye, you heard the impact Phil had on them. Almost everyone of the youth leaders that talked spoke to how Phil continued to push them to be even better leaders and youth workers, and how he never let them off easy. They all spoke to how much he cared for them and what an important role he played in their development as leaders with their peers and with their community. Simply put, many of them would not be in the position they are in today without Phil Rooney. That is a great legacy to leave and to be proud of!
How do you properly thank someone who has given so much to hundreds if not thousands of youth leaders in our community, built up partnerships and worked alongside so many young people to grow tens of thousands of pounds of produce to create access to healthy food for so many? We are not sure if there is a way that honors all of this, but we know Youth Farm and so many great young leaders are better off because of Phil Rooney and his time at Youth Farm.
From all of us at Youth Farm – THANK YOU Phil!