(Summer 18) Morgan Augillard, G, Growing Change, NC,
It’s been amazing working with GrowingChange this summer. I’ve learned so much, but nothing as important as the “ah-ha” moment I had while speaking with some of GrowingChange’s youth leaders. Speaking with young people who so clearly understood some of the social issues plaguing their community, as well as expressing tangible solutions to correcting those issues, is bone chilling. More than just an “ah-ha” moment, talking with youth leaders, Gerald (16), Luke (17), and Jahiem “JaJa” (15), immediately reinforced to me the power, impact, and necessity of GrowingChange’s work, in Scotland County and beyond.
While attempting to escape the Carolina sun after several hours of outdoor labor, Joey, Hannah, Isadora, and I (all SA+P graduate students) took the opportunity to speak with the youth leaders. More than just chatting with them, we were interested in the history of GrowingChange from their perspective, how they came to work with the organization, and the purpose of GrowingChange’s work as they saw it. Immediately JaJa was ready and willing to answer any questions we had and go into depth about the personal reasons of why he’s a part of GrowingChange. One of the most amazing and insightful thoughts he shared with us as to the purpose of GrowingChange was, “We’re not just flipping the prison; we’re flipping Scotland County.” Additionally, Gerald and Luke shared the following: “Don’t just join to join. Join to be you. Join to change yourself. Join to change the world.” – Gerald. “Scotland County should be more like GrowingChange. Don’t trust officials/local government to do anything about this [the problem]” –Luke.
These young people’s deep dedication to the success and longevity of GrowingChange is evident when they speak, in the ways they throw themselves into site tasks, and in their desire for not only the project to succeed but for their community to follow suit. Just being around their passion and energy enlivened the project. It was infectious, and has fueled our desire, as an SA+P team, to remain committed to this project beyond this summer. Gerald, Luke, and JaJa’s words have become the backbone of the way we present this project to the world. I look forward to continuing to highlight these brilliant minds and lifting up their work that is so essential for the betterment of our society
Hello! I’m Morgan Augillard, and I just finished my first year of planning school. Originally I’m from New Orleans, LA, but this summer I’ve had the opportunity to work with the incredible people of GrowingChange. It’s been so energizing to work with young leaders who are deeply dedicated to improving their community while also seeking to grow themselves. There were so many fun moments during our trip to North Carolina, but even more exciting were the conversations and working together with these young people to think about how a project such as this can change the course of the prison industrial system in our country. Keep reading to find out more!
Evidenced by recent scholarship such as Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow, the prison industrial complex in the United States is at an all-time high, and climbing. It’s not only time to rethink the country’s incarceration system and process, but also the way American society conceives of those who’ve been caught in that system—how do we see them, and more importantly, how do they see themselves? Additionally, as prison sites close, there’s an opportunity to reimagine what these sites can become, and the ways they may positively benefit their communities in the future. Working with GrowingChange has been so exciting because its work is rooted in these exact questions.
Growing Change, a non-profit organization based in Wagram, NC, was founded by Noran Sanford, a Scotland County, NC native and clinical psychologist by training. Working as a juvenile court appointed therapist, Noran came to believe that group therapy combined with engaging with the natural world and learning to use ones hands to produce something that could immediately help local people, could change the way a “troubled” young person sees and behaviors in the world. Today, GrowingChange helps local youth learn about agriculture, farming, and the environment, while allow them to position this knowledge to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. Additionally, while Noran is the director of the program, GrowingChange is youth led. As Noran says, “We answer to our youth before we answer to our board.”
What’s even more amazing, GrowingChange has chosen to flip a decommissioned prison in Wagram, and use it as their primary agricultural site. While proving to be a great place to grow pumpkins, raise sheep, and develop hydroponic systems, this site is even more ideal because of the opportunity to reflect on its history and rewrite its future. Instead of possibly being used as a future detention site, GrowingChange is reimagine the old prison as a new community asset. One that will not only serve to educate and give previously overlooked youth leadership opportunities, but can also bring the community together in ways never previously thought possible.
So far, our MIT team of architects and planners has visited North Carolina, met the GrowingChange team, discussed their vision, and began working on various projects. Projects include designing site furniture and rehabbing existing buildings for new uses. The project I’m focused on includes synthesizing the history of the site and the founding of GrowingChange, and thinking about how this project can be sustained in the future and replicable in other locations. As a planner, my personal theory of practice includes supporting community, especially youth, voices towards deeper social equity throughout the country. I’m so excited to continue working on these and other goals with GrowingChange throughout the summer!