Growing up

Juveniles who get in trouble and are ordered by a judge into juvenile custody have already had a taste of a destructive lifestyle. Their choices have more than likely harmed others and themselves.

The Missouri Division of Youth Services is trying to show these young men and women the benefits of a constructive lifestyle. One way that is happening is through a community garden.

Division of Youth Services officials drew inspiration for their garden from Robert Harris, who helped create the Cape Girardeau Community Garden Project. This project began with a plot of land off South Fountain Street. According to Anthony Pulliam, they worked with Harris for the first six years and then decided to make their own garden this year.

There is something about growing plants that teaches patience. The idea is that these teens learn the value, over time, of work and consistency.

"It is a time where I can sit and think and bounce back and do the right thing," said William Ingram, 13, of De Soto, Mo. He said he began working in the garden four months ago when it was just a few boxes of manure. "Over a couple months it started growing like crazy," Ingram said.

The food grown in the garden is used for canning, making relish and salsa and pickling, among other things. According to Pulliam, they make dishes that can be put in storage and used later in the year for activities such as campouts. They also have plans to sell some of the food at a farmers market at the facility later in the year.

This is one of several ways the Division of Youth Services is trying to help young people understand what it means to have good values. According to one official, the boys committed to their care are usually on their first offense for acts such as truancy or being beyond parental control. They often have anger, self esteem or grief and loss issues. About 87 percent who go to the facility in Cape Girardeau, do not have recurring issues after being released from the program.