Woman starts education garden for urban youth

INDIANAPOLIS - One woman who is planting seeds of knowledge with urban youth has created a garden where numerous educational opportunities grow.

Kids of all ages learn about flowers, vegetables, animals and they have a hand in every seed that sprouts at Aster Bekela’s garden on the city’s northeast side.

"Just teaching them how to be in control of their own future is very satisfying for me ... I love it. I love it," Bekela said.

Bekela is equipping urban youth with tools to unearth a productive future -- an experience she didn't have where she grew up.

"I came from Ethiopia … and coming from Ethiopia where we don’t have a resource," Bekela said. "So the idea is I wanted the children to see you really have a resource, we need to show you how to do that.”

So 10 years ago, Bekela created a center for Youth Garden Education where kids learn about science, gardening and environmental preservation -- by literally getting their hands dirty.

"If they become creative, they'll just say, 'Can I plant this,' -- they plant it. If it’s coming up, we're not going to say don’t pull it, don’t walk on it, because walking on it teaches them -- if it dies, why did that happen?" Bekela said.

Now in college, Duane Pulliam has been going to the garden since fifth grade.

"Just over the years she's given me a lot, a lot that I don’t think I would really learn outside of here," Pulliam said.

Bekela said it is rewarding to watch kids grow, tend land and recycle.

"They give me energy … just to see them, I can cry now, this is the 10th year, every time I see kids like Duane who have graduated from here, still coming back from college to work here, that is the most satisfying thing, I don't need anything, I’m just totally proud," Bekela said.

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