Sweet Water Foundation's Apprenticeship and Outreach Program | UL Innovative Education Award
Tier Two Winner

Sweet Water Foundation's Apprenticeship and Outreach Program

Sweet Water Foundation
Illinois

Sweet Water Foundation’s Apprenticeship & Outreach Program engages systemically disconnected youth into STEM-based programming and STEM higher-education and career pathways. Their workforce development approach uses hands-on, project-based learning experiences marrying centuries old practices with 21st century digital media, tools, and technology to address pressing urban problems. Youth become stewards of the physical land and develop a deep awareness of the urban ecological environment by engaging in urban farming, gardening, and neighborhood beautification, while transforming the built environment via art, architecture, carpentry, design, and engineering projects. While doing so, participating youth tackle real-world problems investigating environmental issues, generating community and youth-driver solutions, and working to bring those solutions to life.

Judges Comment

“We were thrilled with one of the Tier 2 awards going to Sweet Water Foundation. They caught our eye with their innovative, multilayered approach using a regenerative neighborhood development model to connect environmental threats, social implications, real-life solutions, and careful monitoring. Through the apprenticeship program, Sweet Water Foundation trains youth in green-collar jobs and community outreach through the creation of beautiful spaces in the surrounding neighborhood. Apprentices design these spaces to be economically productive and ecologically healthy, with the ultimate goal of “growing the neighborhood.” This systems thinking approach shows how integral resident communities are in E-STEM work, serving as a model for the environmental field. Judges appreciated Sweet Water Foundation’s creativity with resources, whether those resources are abandoned lots and equipment, interested community members, and nearby organizations. The Apprenticeship and Outreach Program was also applauded for its potential for replication in any city – this, judges said, is the stamp of a powerful program.”