So many of the young people involved at Youth Farm have grown up before our eyes. Saint Paul Project LEAD Kaylynn Braun is one of them. Now a sophomore at Humboldt High School, Kaylynn has been part of the Youth Farm Family for over five years, first getting involved after a friend of hers had told her about the old summer program.
“When one of my friends had told be about Youth Farm back in elementary school, I thought it sounded like a cool program, but then he moved away,” Kaylynn said. “Even though he had moved, I was still interested so I got involved anyway and have been here ever since.”
Word of mouth is often how youth first hear about our programs, but their experiences are what have made so many of them stay.
“After those first few years at program, I really felt comfortable at Youth Farm and I loved being involved here,” Kaylynn said. “As I was going into high school, I was of age to become a Project LEAD and I thought, why not? I already loved coming to Youth Farm and as a LEAD I get paid for my work here. It’s a win win!”
Kaylynn’s story is a testament as to why we so highly value our progressive program model. By offering youth new opportunities as they age and mature, they stick around because they are challenged at levels appropriate for where they’re at.
We completely understand that Kaylynn was interested in taking on a high school employment position, but we always wonder, why this one?
“I think the main reason I’ve always loved being at Youth Farm is because I get to be around a lot of different people,” Kaylynn said. “When I was younger I made so many friends here and I remember just having fun with them. Of course we would learn to plant, grow, and cook things, but I also remember just hanging out and being kids. One of my favorite memories from before my time as a Project LEAD was making videos with my friends in the old playhouse behind the church. We would make fake reality and cooking shows and I just remember it being so funny.”
“Now as a Project LEAD, I still love being around people and I think my favorite part of my job is attending community events,” she continued. “At events we’re always able to help people out, learn more about our community, and spread the word about what we’re doing at Youth Farm.”
It makes us beyond happy to hear that youth like Kaylynn are truly enjoying the time they spend with us. We learn so much from them and wouldn’t be able to do what we do without their support. Of course, as much as we are learning, our biggest hope is that they are learning two times as much through not only our programs, but the community connections they build.
“I think there’s two main things I’ve learned at Youth Farm: gardening skills and leadership,” Kaylynn said. “Simply because I have been in the garden for so many years now, I have learned how to keep plants alive. I’m no green thumb, but I kept all of my plants at home alive this summer. My mom and I are even thinking about expanding our flower garden at home to include some herbs. That way I hope that we can cook more at home than we currently do.”
“Along with gardening, Youth Farm has taught me how to be a leader,” she said. “I feel like now I am able to create a plan to solve a problem on the spot and I’m not always looking for someone else to take the lead when I’m doing that.”
When our youth begin to see themselves as leaders without us reminding them that they are, that’s when we know we’re doing something right. Leaders like Kaylynn make us exceedingly proud, and we know they will do great things beyond their time at Youth Farm.
Now of course, we understand that not all of the youth we get the pleasure of working with want to become farmers or chefs, and that’s okay! The next generation has so much talent, and we want to see that talent used in a plethora of different ways. Kaylynn has always had a passion for animals, and seeing where that takes her will be an awesome ride.
“Because animals have always been my first love, I know that I want my career to focus on them,” Kaylynn said. “After high school, I want to go to college to become a vet tech and work at a rescue for a few years. After getting more experience, my ultimate goal is to open a cat cafe. Animals are my biggest passion, but I also love to bake. If I could pair those two things together I would have my dream job.”
With all of her strong leadership skills, a love for animals, and a zest for life, we think it’s just a matter of time before we see Kaylynn landing that dream job. Meet us relaxing at the cat cafe in just a few year’s time, proudly declaring that we’ve known the owner since she was running her bakery out of an old playhouse.