Somerset County youth at risk grows more than plants

For the first time in its 45-year history, Middle Earth introduced Horticultural Therapy program in partnership with Horticultural Therapist Laura DePrado, president of Final Touch Plantscaping LLC, Branchburg.
(Photo: ~Courtesy of Middle Earth)

For the past 45 years, Middle Earth, a nonprofit agency serving at risk youths in Somerset County, has served almost 1,000 youths through 12 mentoring, education, employment readiness and college readiness programs.

For the first time this year, a horticultural therapy program sprouted through a new partnership with me, as horticultural therapist and president of Final Touch Plantscaping, of Branchburg. The horticultural therapy workshops in the Art House Initiative Program were made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. A series of workshops took place at the Bound Brook Community Youth Center throughout May and June. Youth from Middle Earth’s Promise, Center, and Journeys programs participated. Promise is a probation-based program for youth. Center is open to all Somerset County youth ages 12 to 18, and Journeys is a program for youth who need more intensive life skills and mentoring.

“Up until recently I only knew of the benefits of gardening for me personally,” Middle Earth Executive Director Maria Strada said. “Many of the youth in our programs suffer from family conflict, poverty, behavioral and academic issues and poor peer relationships among other things. Middle Earth always looks for ways to creatively impact our youth in positive ways. Horticultural therapy activities offer purpose and meaning in a structured and supportive environment that benefits our youth.”

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