Last night, PELC classroom instructor Lori Farrington, along with students Ashley McInnis and Taylor Lott, pitched their idea at Awesome PEC‘s Pitch Party! The competition for the $1000 prize was fierce, but we walked away with the prize! Look for our PELC Pops! popcorn cart at a festival this summer!
“The Awesome Foundation is an ever-growing worldwide community devoted to forwarding the interest of awesome in the universe. Created in the long hot summer days of 2009 in Boston, the Foundation distributes $1,000 grants, no strings attached, to projects and their creators. At each fully autonomous chapter, the money is pooled together from the coffers of ten or so self-organizing “micro-trustees” and given up front in cash, check, or gold doubloons.”
Awesome PEC was formed in 2014 and have now awarded $4000 to local initiatives. “The Awesome Foundation for the Arts and Sciences is an ever-growing, worldwide network of people devoted to forwarding the interest of… awesomeness,” said Krista Dalby. “The idea started in 2009 in Boston, and now dozens of local chapters of the foundation distribute $1,000 grants to projects and their creators. The money is pooled together from the coffers of 10 or so self-organizing ‘micro-trustees’ and awarded with no strings attached.”
In May, we put in an application. We were shortlisted and invited to pitch our idea. And we won!
*Special thanks to Ashley and Taylor for being so incredibly brave to not only share their stories but to do so in a roomful of strangers! So brave! So proud!
You know what’s going to be truly awesome? The next 5 minutes. Why? Because those minutes represent awesome possibilities, with big ripple effects. When you invest in someone, you’re really saying, “I believe in you”. You are instilling in them a sense of hope. When there is hope, there is possibility. And anything is possible.
However, as awesome as Prince Edward County is, there are people here who desperately need some help believing and achieving their own possibilities. We want to help you engage the unengaged.
I have the great privilege of working with teenagers and adults in Prince Edward County who are all holding onto the hope that their situations will change. They are actively working towards building positive futures that once felt out of reach. PELC is an adult literacy and skills training centre, offering free training and support to people wanting to upgrade their skills: to get their high school diploma, attend college, find employment, or change their situations in any way. It’s an emotionally powerful place to spend my days because I get to see people working for change, on a daily basis. And that’s pretty awesome.
My name is Ashley. I’m 19 and I’ve been attending PELC for 8 months. I dropped out of high school when I was 16. I had been experimenting with drugs and I struggled in class. I felt like I wasn’t getting the help that I needed. The final straw was that, like many young girls, I got pregnant. 3 years later and my life is drastically different. I have a beautiful 19-month old daughter, who has become my reason for wanting to change my life, but I’ve never had a job and I’ve never volunteered anywhere.
My name is Taylor. I’m 19 and I’ve been attending PELC for 13 months. I’ve never really attended regular school for any length of time. In public school, I was frequently absent. In high school, I would skip all the time. I would cycle through skipping, quitting, and then trying again. I have significant anxiety. It stops me from living the life I want. I worked for 6 weeks, 2 summers ago, but quit after my anxiety got in the way. 13 months ago, I decided to try again. Now, I’m learning to deal with my anxiety. It’s scary and intense.
In 2013, Vital Signs reported that within The County, the rate of people with no certificate, degree, or diploma, ages 25-64 is 40% higher than Ontario as a whole. In addition, for a myriad of reasons, we are not witnessing a culture of participation in community events. We know that when people do attend, great things happen. Since last fall, we supported students to attend and volunteer in some way for Sandbank: New Waves Festival, Pecha Kucha, The Drawer Boy, The Lantern Festival, as well as other businesses and agencies. Students tell us that these experiences were transformative and really contributed to a positive connection to the community. This led to more volunteering, coop placements, and successful employment. These experiences were our proverbial “toe in the water” and now we’re ready to jump in.
With your awesome grant, we will purchase a commercial popcorn machine, vintage style uniforms, and packaging supplies. Students will develop a PELC Pops! logo, solve business problems as literacy exercises, and gain exposure to the great events and festivals across the county, like the fall fairs, Taste Community Grown, Pumpkinfest, The Lantern Festival…the list goes on and on. We will sell popcorn, year round, at these events. This social enterprise will promote adult education opportunities and re-invest all profits back into adult learning.
We’ve secured community partners to help us provide a gourmet popcorn experience. Sunnydale Farms in Waupoos, grows pesticide free, non-GMO popping corn and will be our supplier. Vicki’s Veggies in Black Creek is an organic farm, producing a multitude of products. We’ve begun creating a Vicki’s Veggies Popcorn Seasoning.
PELC Pops! is a small-scale, portable and self-sustaining training site; a place where students receive significant mentoring, job coaching, and support in order to learn the skills necessary to attend school and find meaningful employment. It’s a popcorn cart, yes, but we’re not trying to be the next Orville Redenbacher. It’s a vehicle to engage the unengaged, in a safe and nurturing way, as they work for change. We know that Ashley, Taylor, and other adult learners need opportunities to develop confidence, learn skills in real world situations, and to feel a part of, and contribute to, our awesome community.
Thank you for your consideration.
We’ve had an awesome time!
She’s 22, has 3 credits, and quit high school because of bullying and severe anxiety. She’s never had a job or been a volunteer. She’s now upgrading at PELC and earning credits toward her diploma. Now imagine her and a PELC staff, selling popcorn from our awesome cart: PELC Pops at one of the many County events. She begins to feel more comfortable during this supervised training. She’s raising funds and awareness for her school, and feels good about being able to ‘give back’. She smiles, hands customers their popcorn, makes change, and wishes them a good day. On the way home, she’s so proud of the work she’s done, the skills she’s learned, and can’t stop talking about how much fun it was. She has engaged: with customers, staff, herself, and her community. Most of our students have limited workplace experience, as well as anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. They need significant mentoring, job coaching, and support in order to learn the skills necessary to attend school and find meaningful employment. This funding would allow us to operate a small scale, portable, and self-sustaining training site. Students would learn transferable skills such as customer service and cash handling, as well as skills related to planning, ordering, and maintaining a social enterprise. The hours they work can count towards those that are required to graduate with an OSSD or as a coop credit. There are many amazing events in PEC. Sadly, most of our students don’t attend these events for a variety of reasons, including a lack of skill, confidence, and support. The recent Vital Signs Report states that youth have a serious lack of engagement in their community. We are always looking for events to attend, but that doesn’t increase their ‘engagement’. They need to be more involved, but in a safe and nurturing way. This popcorn cart would be a vehicle to engage, an opportunity to try new experiences, and a chance to broaden networks. It’s an awesome win-win!
We will purchase a commercial popcorn machine and materials to build a portable cart. We will purchase bowls, shakers, scoops, and all utensils needed as well as awesome uniforms, complete with aprons, bow ties, and diner hats!
Prince Edward Learning Centre is an adult learning and training centre; a free service to youth and adults in PEC. We help people move past a variety of barriers to education and employment. We work with over 100 adults every year. We have always been innovative in our approach to learning and feel that a popcorn cart would be a fun and dynamic way of learning and engaging with our community, while learning valuable small business skills.