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One Cornell graduate’s mission to inspire Chicago youth through environmental exploration



Dejah Powell’s Health, Engaged Activism and Learning group also known as HEAL is an initiative that uses gardening as a form of social justice education for Chicago youth.

HEAL inspires through experiential learning and it centers youth experiences by engaging them in actions that stimulate activism. Additionally, HEAL is about interacting with the environment and involves Chicago youth in the learning process.

The Cornell graduate’s program promotes student learning via environmental science. So, participants learn through scientific experiments and growing food.  Ultimately, Chicago youth can explore their connection to environmental justice because HEAL privileges student knowledge and experiences.

Through HEAL’s social justice education model, its program participants gain an understanding of complex food, health and education systems. But, the program isn’t just about serious topics, it is also about fun.

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In 2018, former participants had the opportunity to enjoy activities like yoga and book tours. In 2019, trips and events include the HEAL Earth Day Urban Farm Tour, a garden party and a sailing excursion.

HEAL is all about developing holistic practices to get Chicago youth aware of and participate in transformative practices in their lives and this program is one step closer to introducing more diverse faces to the environmental field.