Children’s Garden classes start Monday, May 6th!


Watering the garden together

On Monday, we’ll return to the garden for our first Spring garden classes of 2013. If you haven’t signed your child up yet, but would still like to participate, you can print an application here and return it by email to or in person at your child’s first class. We are also looking for three teen interns to help out with the classes. Teens will receive a small stipend and learn how to teach the classes themselves by the end of the spring. Teens interested in the internship should inquire by sending an email to

Join us this Summer! Applications Open!


Fellowship Duration: June 17th to August 16th 2013

Hours:  40 hours/week during the summer program.

Compensation: The position may be eligible for financial support or a stipend from Grand Aspirations. Program Planners will support Program Participants in acquiring internship or independent study credit or doing grassroots fundraising for the position.

What is Summer of Solutions?

Summer of Solutions is a program of the national non-profit Grand Aspirations. Through the four gateway values of prosperity, justice, community and sustainability, Summer of Solutions addresses the economic and environmental crises.  Projects in the program use social entrepreneurship and community development tools to create models for change that are replicable, sustainable and meet community needs.  Past projects of Summer of Solutions have included starting a home weatherization team, increasing bike access, and developing urban agriculture.  Sixteen programs will be held in summer 2011 across the country.  Locations and full program descriptions can be found here:

Continue reading

Something worth stretching for

Written by Marissa Neuman, Chicago 2013 Program Leader. You can also view the post on, the national blog for Summer of Solutions programs and year round solutionary work happening in Grand Aspirations.

Compartmentalized is a word that I often use to describe the separated realms that make up my day to day life, and I think that for many young activists this is a similar sentiment. Many of us have other jobs, school, children, relationships, other activist work, or passions that occupy our time and energy. The majority of my time is spent between the ceramic studio, Let’s Go Chicago, and feminist organizing. With so many of these sectors functioning simultaneously and often not in union with one another it is easy for me to feel spread ultra thin.

On those weeks when days feel like hours and work looks like steep mountains for me to conquer, it is important for me to know why I spend my time the way I spend it. Sometimes these reasons are more clear on certain days than others and it is often more challenging for me to find real clarity when the pressure keeps building on top of me.

This past week started off as one of these ‘bottom of the mountain’ kind of weeks. Several projects were due at school, a fundraiser I had been planning for months was taking place, and an important grant was in the works for Let’s Go. By the end of the week all of these tasks were successfully accomplished and all of those seemingly daunting mountains felt like foothills in retrospect. Admittedly, I think it is relatively symptomatic to make little of the pain of a challenging week when time has nursed the wounds. However, the transformation of my ‘mountains into foothills’ was not a temporal consequence, but the result of breaking down that precipice and conquering it with a team of fellow solutionaries.

The thing about working with Let’s Go Chicago is that even though I sometimes have to stretch my energy and time thinner, the truth is that I am stretching it over an incredible armature of people that reinforce and propel the work we do. I am not alone at the bottom of the mountain, I am standing with my fellow leaders Nell, Ethan, Molly, Peter and Pavan looking ahead at the foothills before us.

I am able to do this work and participate in Grand Aspirations because of the egalitarian leadership structure that is based on compassion and the fact that we all have a stake in the work we do. In my vision of the future more spaces and structures are organized like Let’s Go as a harmonious place where lots of worlds overlap and vertices intersect.

Education for (Environmental) Liberation

Written by Chicago Program Leader Nell Seggerson

In this blog, I’m going to attempt to pack the two things I think about all the time into one tidy package about the future of our communities: schools and climate change.

A motto we use (not very much but enough that I’m going to say it’s our motto) here in Chicago is “A school in every neighborhood, a garden in every yard”.


We’ve been talking about the connection between the education system and sustainable community transitions for awhile now and it makes sense to us that we should be working with schools, but mostly because schools are a resource to get more kids involved, not because we recognized why the schools need us. But as times in education shift, it’s becoming more clear why schools and community-based environmental groups need each other.

In Chicago right now, we’re in the midst of a battle for public education. It’s the modern apparatus of a 200 year movement for public education that includes the fight of slaves teaching their children to read and black organizers building freedom schools during the Civil Rights movement. But now, as the bloody hand of neoliberalism claws at one of the city’s (and country’s) last remaining public institutions the ground is being laid for a huge community uprising.

In March, the Chicago Board of Education will release its list of school closings. So far there have only been rumors and small leaks from the Mayor’s office, but predicted numbers have been around 100 schools.

WOW! Continue reading

Announcing the 2013 Summer of Solutions!

A stiff breeze off the lakefront may have chilled our vegetation until the spring, but an exciting fervor for planting and growing has been brewing in our solutionary meetings with new and evolving plans for the future!

Our three main programs have reaped great success and lessons for us this past year.


Students showing off pickles made in the fall children’s garden class

The children’s garden remains an active staple in the ‘playground’ of LETS GO
Chicago. We maintain a fruitful partnership with the United Church of Rogers Park to help elementary school students to dig in and learn in our victory garden. Their textbooks are the raised beds in front of Koinonia house, an intentional community that is part of our home base, where they learn to identify, cultivate, know and love the land. This summer was jam packed with all kinds of fun games and activities with new kids and instructors. This fall we continued the fun pickling cucumbers and painting pumpkins ahead of the first frost. Just like perennials, the children’s garden will blossom once again in the Spring bringing with it new adventures and lessons. Continue reading

Rain gardens, greenhouses, and hunger walks

Cross-posted from

This post is by sustainable community organizer Lookman Muhammed. You can read his first post here.

Lookman Muhammed (r) with Ethan Viets-VanLear, building a rain garden in Rogers Park

My name is Lookman Muhammed. I work with A Just Harvest’s Genesis Project specifically the “Aquaponic Social Enterprise”. My first blog post explained a lot about my work here, what I do, and the purpose of my work with A Just Harvest and LETS GO Chicago. These two organizations have a common goal to fight hunger and poverty through urban agriculture. My responsibility is working to maintain and increase the effectiveness of our aquaponic system located in Gale Academy on Marshfield and Jonquil in the community of Rogers Park. The North of Howard area is where a great majority of the population we engage reside. Continue reading

A hard goodbye to a good friend and hero

Photo credit: Earthjustice

Our dear friend and environmental hero, Larry Gibson, passed away this past Sunday. Larry was a close mentor of several of our members and it is with a heavy heart that we announce his passing.

In a strange twist of fate, a carload of us were able to make one last visit to Kayford Mountain just 2 weeks before Larry’s untimely death. Continue reading

Summer wrap-up

     Hey everyone, Im Jason from the Rogers Park area.  I am a member of LETS  GO Chicago and i’m here to explain to everyone about what we did this wonderful summer.  At first, I thought it Summer of Solutions going to be extremely boring ,since all we did was discuss problems about the world around us. I thought myself, “This was not what I signed up for”, but after our training week was completed, we were ready to get some work done. As a team we all started constructing raised beds on the first day. At first, i felt nervous since i didn’t talk to no one, let alone build with them. But since these were all good-hearted people, everyone got along in an instant. Even with the humid air and harsh sun, nothing could’ve stopped us, because we were committed!

     From there on we’ve contacted our neighbors from around the area to see if they were willing to lend us a part of their yard for us to construct more raised beds. Then came along Bob, a friendly neighbor who lives on Ashland. he was kind enough to lend us 2 plots for gardening and a great spot for a fire pit for gatherings. We’ve called local neighbors who are associated with the church to offer them for a gardening space at different gardens around the area. gardeners have grown eggplants, tomatoes, radishes, and arugula. As you can see below we have posted a sign that says “Rogers Park Yard Sharing Network”. We have posted these signs in all 5 yards that we have worked in to let the people know we mean business! (Here are the before and after pics)


We also had a program for kids that was called “Childrens Garden” in which kids from around the neighborhood would come to learn about gardening and have fun projects to do that involved face painting, tea making, transplanting, etc. Kids were also able to have their own raised beds to grow their own crops. We taught them about the soil and how to properly space their seeds so they can grow comfortably. As you see here we have 2 brothers from Childrens Garden planting their seed sand watering them, as well as Greg (who is a member of Summer of Solutions) helping them out.

Hopefully by next year ALL of our lovely gardens will look like this, maybe even better!

Heat of the Summer

The relentless heat this week kept things exciting as we finished the second week of the program. In the Children’s Gardening Class, we saw some new, and familiar faces. We made small pots out of clay for the children to plant their own plants. Clay was everywhere, from faces of children to the participants. The kids loved the clay and getting their hands messy while making the pots. In addition to making pots, we taught them about the different kinds of soils and identified which is the best for growing plants. After that, we had the children add soil to the potato plants.

Later on in the week, the participants did some canvassing training. We canvassed for the Children’s Gardening Class. We went around the neighborhood and talked to community members to find children that could join our class. I was a bit nervous going door to door canvassing, but it was actually a pleasant experience. We saw a few children from the class in the neighborhood, and got to know the community by meeting and talking to the people that live in neighborhood. People were interested in what we were doing and passed out quite a few applications for the class. We hope to see some new faces next week in gardening class. We ended the canvassing with some seriously refreshing paletas, or popsicles, from a store a couple blocks away. The weather forecast next week looks comfortable and sunny, I’m looking forward to making progress with our gardens. Look out for a new post later this week.