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

As Chicago thaws, things are heating up for LETS GO Chicago

LETS GO Chicago members have been quite busy throughout the late winter and early spring and we are excited to tell you why. As Chicago thaws, the Rogers Park solutionaries are revving up for their fourth season of gardening, community building, youth empowerment and more. We have been preparing for our spring garden since early March by planting seedlings in our new greenhouse in West Rogers Park. Through a new partnership with the Westwood Manor Nursing Home, we are breathing life into the 18 by 32 foot space with the help of nursing home residents. The greenhouse is allowing us to select a wider range of crop varieties while providing a valuable learning experience for all involved.


The greenhouse at Westwood Manor

Come mid-May, we will also be adding a community garden to this open space on the nursing home grounds:


Future site of a community garden

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Alumni Spotlight: Ethan Viets-Vanlear

Cross-posted from, the national blog of Grand Aspirations

Application deadline for Summer of Solutions is 4/14  Apply here!

My name is Ethan Viets-Vanlear, I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois where I am currently a student, activist, poet, and organizer. I started Summer of Solutions in the summer of 2012 through Let’s Go Chicago.

My initial motive for joining SoS was to spend more of my time outside building tangible solutions to some of the issues I noticed around me. I was also excited to spend my time growing food.  I think the biggest thing that I got from SoS was the notion that any problem has a solution that I can take part into making happen.  SoS really taught me a way to help a community without being part of various systems of oppression and control that dominate most organizations and institutions in our society. My favorite memories from SoS would have to be our various trips offsite to places like a farm, or spending time with all the participants around a campfire. 1

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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:

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Alumni Spotlight: Ashley Trull

This article is cross-posted from, the national blog of Grand Aspirations and the Summer of Solutions. While Ashley didn’t participate in the Chicago program, her account is a very good testimony of what a Summer of Solutions experience can be like in any location.

It’s that time of the year. I can feel my bones stirring, getting ready for new beginnings. It’s that wintery feeling that comes when we get ready for the spring and summer to warm us up and get us out into the world again. In SoS terms, it’s the “January Gathering” time of year when we get together to plan our projects and programs for Summer of Solutions and all of our solutionary endeavors. And though I didn’t go to the January Gatherings this year, I still feel that sense of stirring, beginnings, and excitement. It is time to connect with people around us, to share ideas, dream up new possibilities, and get ready to grow in new directions.

As Solutionaries around the country organize and prepare for their Summer of Solutions programs, I’m getting ready for a new Solutionary launch of my own. 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.

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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