A honey bee, without a colony, is doomed. So too is a teen, without a sense of belonging. Our vision is to help at-risk youth by providing them with life skills and a “colony” of caring adults.
Early in 2011, we founded the non-profit Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association. We were concerned about the disappearance of honey bees and wanted to encourage others to support honey bees through education and backyard beekeeping. However, we quickly found we wanted to do more.
We learned of a beekeeping class taught to at-risk youth at a local continuation high school. This class is one of the many strategies used at the school to help students succeed and graduate. We were moved by how much the students cared about the plight of the honeybee and the idea for Sweet Start was born.
The vision of Sweet Start is to provide students with quality coaching and job training that will give them experience and confidence for a future career path. Those willing to make a commitment to themselves, the bees and the community will receive pre-job training and apply for internships. Those selected will be matched with a mentor and learn the unique art of beekeeping. Interns will work in teams to create a business and marketing plan and sell honey products at local farmers markets. All interns will be compensated, as they would be in the job market, for their training and work. Proceeds from product sales will support Sweet Start interns in successive years. Sweet Start graduates will be offered continued support through scholarships and career mentoring.
Our community is blessed to have members who volunteer their time and talents to ensure honey bees in Santa Barbara can flourish. We are also blessed with those who care enough about our at-risk youth to commit to helping them blossom.