BALTIMORE — Weeding isn't usually considered a fun gardening task, but 14-year-old Jerleah Moye doesn't mind it at all.
"It's relaxing; you're picking the dirt. It's cool," she said while digging her hands into the earth and pulling out weeds.
She is weeding the tomato and basil gardens at the Civic Works' Real Food Farm site on Perlman Place in northeast Baltimore. Moye is one of dozens of students who spent their summer connecting with Mother Nature through the Civic Works' Baltimore Conservation Leadership Corps.
The students are hired by Civic Works through Baltimore's YouthWorks program. If they're not weeding gardens, they are cleaning up trails and parks or turning vacant lots into green spaces.
"It's a variety of different projects all engaging in outdoor education, learning how to use tools and learning how to do skills that could be used for future jobs," said Jackie Goulet, the education coordinator for Civic Works' Real Food Farm.
"Hopefully they gain an appreciation for nature and being outdoors and learning to have job skills and job readiness skills along the way," she said.
Leaders with Civic Works also teach the kids how they can start their own gardens, even if they don't have a yard, by using buckets, haystacks or just an open bag of soil.
Then there are the life skills they're picking up by committing to their job, like being on time, communicating and working as a team.
"For a lot of these students, it's their first time having a job, so they're trying to figure out what the expectations are and especially trying to work with people they might not even be friends with in their classroom," said Gwen Kokes, the food and farm program manager for Civic Works.
And just like the herbs and vegetables in the garden, these kids are growing and maturing and will come away from the experience with new knowledge about nature and gardening and important life skills.
"I love being out here working with them everyday and just getting to show them all of the food that we're growing and how excited it makes them to learn about something new," said Goulet.
What's also exciting for the students is getting their first paycheck, and Moye already knows how she will spend her hard-earned cash.
"I'm going to go to the mall and buy a lot of clothes," she said.
And maybe a pair of gardening gloves too.