Tashaun McGowan hosts fresh cilantro at the High Teens Green Garden program in Green Teens on June 29th.  This is the third year for the program.

Tashaun McGowan hosts fresh cilantro at the High Teens Green Garden program in Green Teens on June 29th.  This is the third year for the program.
  • Teenagers can earn a part-time salary and learn to kindergarten in a summer program in the West Side kindergarten
  • The program is among the summer initiatives the city is funding to curb violent crime involving young people.
  • This push comes amid gun violence that has claimed the lives of nine young people under 18 this year
  • Teenagers will take care of crops, visit nearby gardens and hear from invited speakers on food topics

Robert Alexander Jr. put a small pile of Napa cabbage on his plate and looked at it with suspicion.

Made with fresh cilantro, carrots and onions harvested from the surrounding community garden, the dish was not spicy food 14-year-old Robert said he prefers. But the teen is nothing but adventurous – that’s why Robert, a Georgia resident, joined his Columbus cousin Tashaun McGowan, 14, to work at the Highland Youth Kindergarten in the West Side of the city while visited the family for the summer.

He quickly overcame his hesitation and took a small bite.

Robert chewed slowly, staring, while the rest of the teens waited for the decision. Not bad, he said, but Robert had the highest praise for the tofu baked that day by Charlie Richardson, a leading gardener in the youth garden, located around a block south of West Broad Road near the Hilltop neighborhood.

Educational gardener Nande Gilbert, at the center, works with Tashaun McGowan on a stroller solution at the High Teens Green Garden Green program, which pays teens a part-time salary while teaching them gardening skills.

The group of teens are all part of the green summer kindergarten program that pays them a part-time salary while teaching them gardening skills. They had taken a lunch break after spending the morning of June 29 working in the sun to grow their tomatoes, mustard greens and other fresh produce.

“I don’t really get much out of the house, so I saw this as an opportunity to try something new,” said Robert, who lives in LaGrange, Georgia, as he waited for raw tofu for Richardson to cook.