Growing up is hard. Being a teen is harder. Often times, young individuals fall through the cracks and find themselves in a rabbit hole where it becomes difficult to succeed, facing barriers and challenges to overcome, with little understanding from the adult world. Talia is a young individual once faced with these challenges, but thanks to her outlook on life, she has overcome and achieved some amazing things.

Talia’s Beginning

From most people’s perspective, Talia had very difficult circumstances. Living in a group home, Talia had found herself with little guidance on how to maneuver through a critical point in a young individual’s life– a flexibility and freedom that resulted in poor decision-making and her life headed down the wrong life path. Whether it be completing school work or learning how to find a job, she did not know where to find the drive. As time went on, Talia began getting into trouble more and more. There finally came a time in her life where she had to make a decision that was ultimately her life’s turning point. The opportunity came for Talia to join an organization that allows for youth to work and volunteer during the summer months while school is not in session. This decision marked the beginning of a new life for Talia and empowered her to create the life she had always envisioned.

Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments (VINES) is an organization committed to developing a sustainable and just community food system. They accomplish this by bringing together diverse groups of people, with a focus on youth development, to establish community gardens, urban agriculture, and community green spaces. They strive to develop and beautify urban sites and empower community members of all ages and abilities. Grow Binghamton, VINES’ 6-week summer youth employment program, is designed for teenagers, ages 14-21, to build life skills while growing food for the community. This program focuses on more than just food; helping youth gain the ability to overcome life challenges and guide them to decision-making that will lead them to continued success throughout their lives.

Talia Becomes Resilient and Perseveres

VINES took Talia in with open arms, even with the knowledge she was a troubled teen who could possibly be difficult to work with. Yet, VINES was the new experience that was going to give Talia the push to turn her life in the right direction. The VINES Grow Binghamton staff showed love, compassion and encouragement toward Talia, which ultimately helped her see she had the ability to persevere through life’s difficult circumstances. Through hard work and dedication, she has been able to work her way up through the ranks of the program, and is now a Peer Leader with the opportunity to show teens the same compassion that helped her through her own dark side. Although there were some bad days, Talia has been able to continuously improve upon herself and work towards her future goals. Grow Binghamton has helped her transform into a person that radiates positivity and happiness, which was a major turnaround, compared to her attitude towards the world before beginning the program.

Talia recently graduated from SUNY Broome and is excited to begin her journey of pursuing a Bachelor’s degree from SUNY New Paltz, this upcoming fall. This next chapter of life will mark an unbelievable accomplishment for someone who experienced a rough beginning. Talia’s story is a true testament that no matter what life throws at you, quitting is never an option and your personal decisions can help shape the outcome.

Without VINES, Talia may have never found the opportunity to learn how strong she is and that she had the ability to pursue her dreams. Talia’s story illustrates the magnitude of the Grow Binghamton program, the impact it has on at-risk youth in our community, and how lives are changing for the better each day. Talia hopes to inspire others who are going through similar circumstances, looking to help them overcome anything thrown in their direction. She is a true inspiration to everyone around her and demonstrations how one can turn their life around with hard work and dedication to become the version of themselves they had always envisioned to be.

To learn more about VINES and what they have to offer, visit www.vinesgardens.org

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