A Dream Sprouts into Reality!
It all started with a dream...
Over 29 years ago, Lee Spiegel had a dream that she was running a training center for youth which gave them the skills to find meaningful work. In the dream, the youth were helping to run a business so that they were getting real work experience which had employers seeking them out.
This vision has remained with Lee over years and she searched for communities to house her program everywhere she went. There never seemed to be the right fit of people and resources to make it happen.
In 2011, Lee presented the concept to the members of the Pulaski Community Partners Coalition (PCPC) where she served as Executive Director. This group caught the dream and the potential for the community and in nine months had developed the objectives, curriculum and registration process for the Youth Training Center (YTC). PCPC's Youth Training Center committee felt strongly that the trainees start off just like they would in the real world so they had to complete applications, go through a selections process and those who were selected had to pass a drug test.
There were only a few applicants the first year but each year the number of trainees has grown. The most important part, however, is the response from the youth and parents at the end of the training. In post-training evaluations all students have said the program was well worth their time and a number added that all teenagers should have this training.
Since that time, the trainees have received their post-training work experience with different agencies and businesses.
Now, apart from the formal connection with PCPC, Lee has developed this aquaponically-based agriculture business that would support the training program and offer the hands-on work experience that would truly set these trainees apart from other youth. Pulaski Grow has been established on the site of the "retired" Draper Elementary School in Draper, Virginia.
There is also a "retired" community cannery building adjacent to Pulaski Grow that Lee sees as a great addition to the aquaponics business, and she plans on restoring the cannery as "Phase II" of Pulaski Grow.