Photo by Eddie Carpenter | YES Volunteer Program poses for a group photo on April 4.
Photo by Eddie Carpenter | YES Volunteer Program poses for a group photo on April 4.

César Chavez Day with YES

Life's a garden, can you dig it?

by Eddie Carpenter

In honor of César Chavez Day, the YES program hosted a volunteer event at the Potawot Community Food Garden in Arcata. It had an amazing turnout with a whopping 40 volunteers in attendance, caressed by the sunny blue skies and the refreshing Humboldt breeze.

We were assigned tasks by being divided into five groups. I was grateful to be a part of a group that planted beds of squash. We did everything from scratch, laying out layers of black cover material across the four rows to keep the weeds from robbing the plants of their nutrients. We also covered the tops of the rows with white cloth.

Gardening skills have practical value in my daily life. Prior to this experience, I had been a volunteer at Potawot through a program called the Intertribal Agriculture Council. Potawat’s head gardener Ed Mata gave me a handbook about gardening and I was mentored by a professional development specialist named Elaini Vargas.

Maybe I was a little rusty on the terminology, but basic knowledge about soil health has since been ingrained into the recesses of my brain. I learned in a soils class that if you live in a mild climate, it’s estimated that it took 200 to 400 years for 1 centimeter of the soil to form. Vargas’ and Mata’s teachings directly impacted the mindset I had going into the YES serve-a-thon on César Chavez Day.

Youth Educational Services (YES) is a collective on campus that provides students with opportunities to volunteer at local school and community sites. One of their goals is to connect hands-on service and in-class learning with awareness of the injustices and oppressions experienced by those they serve. Actions sometimes speak louder than words. Making donations and saying nice things about a cause is totally different from donating your time and bodily energy to a cause.

According to, helping others can possibly help make you happier as a person. Through volunteering, I was able to make temporary connections through teamwork and group communication. This gave me a sense of community and made me feel like I belonged to a noble cause.

If you want to see change in your self-esteem, you might want to consider doing good deeds, so we can manifest the world into a better place. Indeed, an outward reflection of finding happiness can in turn make you a happy person.

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