When middle and high school students in the program began to work together on their own plots, a group called Protectores de la Tierra (Protectors of the Earth) formed.
This youth group has been instrumental in keeping the program running. Working with Nuestras Raices gives the youths the opportunity for leadership and to contribute to their communities, according to Fritzsche. In a project called Centro Agrícola, the group has transformed an abandoned building and vacant lot into a vibrant center for small business development and community education.
Tutoring comprises another aspect of the program, in which member Daniel Berch ’03 has been involved. “Tutoring at Nuestras Raices is a means of helping people who are not so fortunate as to be at Amherst College,” said Berch. “It also provides a chance to question my values and my own way of life. I can start identifying some of the intangible things that are lacking here at Amherst.”
Nuestras Raices is making a visible difference in the Puerto Rican communities of Holyoke. The program recently received a prestigious award from the Harry Chapin Foundation, administered by World Hunger Year, for its diligence and creative approach to fighting hunger and poverty by encouraging self-reliance.
As an active member of the program, Fritzsche has had the pleasure of becoming very close with the middle and high school students in the program. “Since this is my third year, I have grown to be friends with many of the guys. We share in each others’ successes and failures,” he said.