YouthBuild Louisville's Story

YouthBuild Louisville students spend two weeks in the palace gardens of Versailles, France learning about urban agriculture food production and art.

Not many teenagers from the U.S. can claim that they have received agricultural training in a garden that once fed French royalty during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Yet YouthBuild Louisville students, LiQuiyon Mitchell, 19, and Sierra Preston, 18, travelled to Potager du Roi (“Kitchen Garden of the King”) in Versailles, France to do just that. From late May to early June, the teenagers spent two weeks at the world famous garden learning and practicing traditional farming techniques with the hopes of using their skills to advance their future educational and professional pursuits and to improve their community.

The twenty-two-acre tract of land bears hundreds of different types of fruits and vegetables.

We harvested a lot of strawberries.We harvested spinach. We harvested turnips, carrots, rhubarb.

Antoine Jacobsohn, Director of the Potager du Roi, and his staff guided the students as the teens learned agricultural techniques like grafting and tree shaping. According to Preston, in France, "they're known for art, so everything is more than a plant; it's an art piece."

The YouthBuild Louisville students were chosen to take part in the opportunity after passing through a selection process that assessed the students’ community service, educational plans, and career goals. The idea for the opportunity grew from a partnership between the YouthBuild Louisville and I.D.E.A.S. 40203, an arts-centered association that strives to improve the Louisville community and to boost commerce in the area. The two students were able to finance their trip through a combination of crowdfunding, private donor matching, and fundraiser parties.

YouthBuild Louisville and I.D.E.A.S. 40203 believed that the trip would encourage students to learn agricultural skills that they could apply to YouthBuild Louisville’s own food garden. The two organizations also hoped that Preston and Mitchell would serve as resources to other students at YouthBuild Louisville interested in agriculture.

Thousands of miles away from Versailles, France, the historically rich Louisville neighborhood of Smoketown, stands as a community in a state of transition. After the Sheppard Square housing project fell into a state of squalor, a revitalization project began through funding received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOPE VI Award. YouthBuild Louisville has played a key role in the deconstruction and reconstruction of the older buildings in Smoketown, allowing the youth in the program to develop key trade skills.

"Lynn Rippy, the (YouthBuild) director, is really all about community development and being there for all of the changes in the neighborhood and pointing it in a creative direction," said Nguyen, environmental program coordinator for YouthBuild Louisville.

One of the projects currently in development in the area is the Creative Innovation Zone. The eight-block area is set to serve as a center for business, education, art, and environmental design.

"The Creative Innovation Zone will benefit the most by having young leaders from the community step up and own a major piece of this for themselves," said Theo Edmonds, co-founder of I.D.E.A.S 40203.

Alexis Bach
"I have wanted to be a nurse since I was about 13 or 14 years old, I’m finally able to do it and it’s amazing."
"I think it’s important to make the connection between leadership development and education."
Ely Flores
"During my time at the LA CAUSA YouthBuild program in East Los Angeles, I discovered that I was indeed a leader and that there were leadership assets within me and within my community."