Seedlings Behind the Concrete Fortress


On November 19, after nearly a year and a half of planning, grant writing, and collaboration, the Juvenile Justice Center’s Garden Project launched in the concrete courtyard outside one of the detention units.  This project has been student driven in every regard. Our former students, who are now detained at our sister school, Log Cabin Ranch, designed, constructed, and ultimately installed five redwood raised beds, which will serve as the foundation for phase one of the garden. These young men were just as professional as any paid team we could have hired:  they were donned in construction overalls, tool belts, and hard hats and they worked together collaboratively.

The following pieces, written by the young ladies for a grant presentation in front of Senator Leland Yee, may give readers insight into just what the garden means to our youth.

Thank you for listening.

Ms. Walker, Ms. Mercurio, and Mr. Neil


The Meaning of the Garden

This phenomenal opportunity to acquire this miniature garden is more than appreciated.  It’s more of a blessing to those of us that have taken advantage of the little wonders in life.  Plants are one of these wonders.  Since I’ve been incarcerated, I have been more appreciative of the little things in life such as these plants.  These plants give me a reason to believe that I am worth something while they grow each and every day because of my care and love.  It may be silly to some to have so much passion about a plant, but to me, it means more.  Having these plants has taught me to protect, love, and care for myself, and this is something that I have not done for myself before.  So, if I can love, care, and protect a plant, why can’t I do the same for myself and other people such as my mother.  I’ve learned responsibility and patience while taking care of this little piece of life.  My sister is eleven years old and she depends on me such as the plant depends on me.  This plant has allowed me to take the carefulness, patience, experience, and love as a gift that I can apply to my everyday life with passion, courage, and love.  I am more than thankful for these plants because without them I wouldn’t have found these feelings, this joy, and motivation in life to make each day count.  Thank you.

By:  Sativa


 My name is Jacqueline, but they call me Tualah.  My daddy gave me that name before he died.  I’ve made bad mistakes in my life and I take responsibility for my actions.  In here, juvenile hall is a place where we come to reflect on our actions and better ourselves.  In that process, I know all these kids in here are lonely and need at least something to trust in.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a person, maybe a thing.  We are in a place where we don’t have family and we don’t know many people who we can confide in here.  I know having a beautiful garden will help us to open our mind and shed some light in this dark period of time.  For me, having a plant that I can take care of helps me to understand my responsibilities and learn to be more responsible.  Thank you for providing for us the money and opportunity to have something we can look at that is both beautiful and helpful.

By:  Tualah


I want to see something beautiful come from this ugly situation.  I would love to see florescent, vibrant colors somewhere among all this white, gray and faded purple that fills our hours. I want to smell something fresh and good instead of chemicals and body odor.

We have nothing to look forward to in here but the day to get out, so why not grant us this one wish?  We long to create something nice to put our time and our creativity into.  We want something to feel proud of in this big bad mess.  Something as little and simple as a garden could  put a smile on our frowning faces and give a little hope that by the time the flowers blossom into something nice and beautiful in this world, we will have changed our lives.

By Yanet


My name is Carey.  I have been in YGC for nine months.  This garden project was brought up a few months after I got here.  I planted a plant along with my other classmates and it was the only one that survived.  Unfortunately, it died.  But it taught me something very important: life is not full of success and good fortune all the time.  Things are going to happen.  It represents all of us in this room right now, the teachers, counselors, and yes, the Senator.

I’ll admit I was sad when it died, but I just planted another one and tried a little harder.  I got to correct my mistake and to see something grow that I know I put effort into, and this makes me feel like I accomplished something, no matter how small.  But everyone has to start small to achieve big.

What I am trying to say is that a garden would help people try to accomplish something good.  Some people might not care, but that is also a part of life.  This garden could show these young ladies and gentlemen that they can do things that are good and beneficial without doing it illegally.  We may have to be talked to about it, given worksheets or questionnaires to dig deep into our feelings, but it can happen either way.

And who knows, YGC may go out of business one day.  Then school and garden clubs would be overflowing.

By:  Carey


Dear Sunzilla

Dear Sunzilla, please hear me out,
I speak with love, so my intentions, please do not doubt.
My hope is for you to grow tall, healthy, long & strong
Therefore I give thee advice and wisdom by song:

Look to your mother for guidance and support.
stay clean from weeds, thorns, pests, and things of the
sort, for they do not want you to thrive as I do, instead
embrace the rain that will turn into morning dew

Reach to the sun, don’t be afraid
for that is the purpose from God you were made
Some nights may be long, and some days
may be rough, but do not fret, you are built from
Strong stuff…

By:  Ashton



Tulips, daisies & baby’s breath

Put them together it makes a great scent.

Sunflowers & Calla Lilies

Put them together and it looks pretty.

All the flowers in the world

Can make one really glow

Looking at flowers is like a show.

All the different scents and colors

you know.

I grew up around flowers so it’s all I know.

Putting together a garden makes you feel fresh.

You know?

By: Rochelle


My Thank You Letter to You

When you look at me what do you see? When I look at myself I see nothing. I see a person who has nobody in her world to help her. Everything that I have ever wanted I had to earn by myself. And now I’m glad to see that there’s somebody stepping up to the plate and helping. I just want to say thank you and I wish there were people like you. It’s people like you who keep kids like me staying out of trouble and wanting to learn how to trust people. Because without a little motivation, we can’t achieve the things we say we can’t do. Once again I want to thank you.

by Danesha


 What I See….

I see a smile on our young faces.

I see something to look forward towards.

I see what looks like a beautiful idea.

I see the beautiful creations made from our hard working hands.

I see so many different colors in our future garden.

I see something to look forward to.

I see something to take pride in.

By: Jesse



There are five seeds that lie beneath the dirt

And to grow, it has to put in a lot of work.

I won’t judge it about how long it takes.

And once it grows

A bunch of flowers

Will awake a beautiful flower.

With an aroma that’s to die for

It smells like perfume

And it will make you want to smell more.

So, don’t fret,

Be patient

And wait for it to grow.

Once you see the birth of a green stem,

You’ll know

By Renecia









12 thoughts on “Seedlings Behind the Concrete Fortress

  1. yay! the boxes are in!

    Such great words, ladies.

    I’m thankful for the potential in a seed…
    the opportunity to nurture, to be nourished, to notice grow and change.
    plants are excellent teachers of the life and death that is life.
    so glad this project has come to fruition!

    I can’t wait to see the garden and look forward to seeing you all again 😉

  2. WOW, there is nothing more beautiful then to see & listen to the hearts of young children.
    Seeing & feeling the wonders of our world.
    Thank you

  3. What wonderful words of hope and truth from you students about such a simple thing as a garden. I really hope that the garden continues to bring you hope and joy and recovery.

  4. Inspiring … both the work that went into creating this fine, (soon-to-be) blossoming space; as well as the clear, direct, beautiful expressions brought to us in words by those who have discovered a labor of love.

  5. Wow! What beautiful pieces of writing and poetry. I am so happy that this project was able to become a reality and hope that it brings brightness, beauty and bounty to you all!

  6. I was very moved by these words of the young people trying to use their mistakes to gain a foothold on life and teach others by their courage to keep going despite past failures
    It is hard to be good all alone and in the dark, thanks to the woman that posted these and thanks to the courage of the young people to write these intimate things. A light shines here now.

  7. I love the way that you all are using your voices to read and write about your world. Incredibly beautiful. I love the way that the garden offers hope and a place of new growth for many of you and I look forward to reading more!

  8. I truly enjoyed reading your beautiful words and am inspired by your perseverance and dedication. Looking forward to future posts!

  9. What amazing, beautiful, insightful words that help us to try to understand the “why? ” of it all. I have so much respect for the writers of these pieces, as well as the women who have guided them through this process. I read these before i went to sleep last night and found myself very emotional. When I awakened in the middle of the night, your words were still with me. Thank you all for this experience. I send lots of positive thoughts and prayers to you all!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *