FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A farming project in Fresno County is producing more than food. It will now be used in trainings across California.
The Sweet Potato Project has been helping southwest Fresno teens gain an interest in agriculture while teaching life lessons in the process.
During the program, African American students learn how to produce, market and sell sweet potatoes.
"Our youth, they could have been doing anything - they could have been out there in those streets, they could have been involved in gangs, they could have been involved in drugs, but they have decided and they have made a commitment to be a part of this program to learn about leadership, to learn about self-esteem, to learn about ag-business, to learn about entrepreneurship," Yolanda Randles told Action News in a 2020 interview.
Randles is the executive director of the West Fresno Family Resource Center, which runs the program.
The program's goal is to keep kids out of gangs, and away from drugs and alcohol.
With funding from the Fresno County Behavioral Health Department, there is also a focus on mental health awareness.
"You're building community. You're building a safe space. You're building relationships," said division manager Ahmad Bahrami. "Through the curriculum, they do talk a little bit about wellness and healthy decision-making and healthy lifestyles, and a little bit about mental health. So it's not an in-your-face, stigmatizing way. It's more as, as you're learning these things, you also learn about wellness and what to do if you're if you're having some struggles."
The California Alliance for Children and Family Services will now be using the Sweet Potato Project as an example of an innovative, non-traditional approach that can work with young people.
On July 26, California organizations, focusing on at-risk youth, are invited to go through a training about the program, even hearing from participants and how they've benefitted.
The training event will be in-person from 1-3:30 p.m. at Fresno State's Student Recreation Center on N. Woodrow. There will also be a virtual option. Registration is open.
Program organizers hope this allows other organizations to plant the seed to a better future across the state.