Twelve students from the Crispus Attucks Youthbuild Charter School worked on a soon-to-come community garden and courtyard located in Royal Square on Wednesday evening.

It was their first day on the job, but they laughed and joked with each other while shoveling dirt, pushing barrels and moving heavy equipment.

The students were volunteering through the Crispus Attucks HYPE program. The program works with local businesses and organizations to get youth volunteering in the community while also developing their professional skills.

"I like working together and coming together," said 14-year-old HYPE member Quontez Taylor.

The two projects rely heavily on volunteers, as do many of the beautification initiatives in the Royal Square, according to Debbie Krout-Althoff, community development and project director for the Royal Square District. The student participants said they enjoy these volunteer opportunities as resume and character building events.

The program: HYPE, which stands for Helping Youth through Prevention and Education, is offered through the Crispus Attucks Center for Employment and Training and is geared toward 14- to 18-year-old students. They take part in resume workshops, a handshake 101 class, gain tips for interviews and work with local businesses and organizations that need volunteers.

For the next three weeks there will be only 12 students participating, but Director Christopher Scott of York City said that the program anticipates having close to 125 members during the summer program, which starts on July 12.

Scott is in his first year as director, but he said he's always had a passion for working with and helping local kids.

"I love seeing the kids get involved," Scott said. "Today they just started and they were all shy, but by the third week the kids are talking about what they learned."

The students: Kids are encouraged to apply for the program by their teachers. Many of them enjoy working with other students and getting outdoors.

Many students join the program for exactly the reason it is offered: to feel empowered through their work. Angeles Rivera, a 14-year-old HYPE member, said she enjoyed working in the garden.

"You get to experience working hard," she said.

The program is offered from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. The volunteers primarily stay in York City and will work with local businesses or organizations that are searching for volunteers.

"They're getting involved and staying off the streets," Scott said.

The garden: This week's project for HYPE was a community courtyard and garden that has been in the works for approximately four years. Located behind DiDi and Smiling Johns at 119 Duke St., the area is a tucked-away treasure, according to Annalisa Gojmerac, the head volunteer gardener.

"I love that this is the Royal Square and it looks similar to a sunken garden in England. I actually wrote to Prince Charles about it," Gojmerac said with a laugh. "I guess we'll see if he writes back."

Gojmerac said she hopes the garden will provide urban produce for local initiatives and organizations. It will also be a quiet place for people to escape to while also learning about nature, science and how to build and maintain their own gardens.

The garden, the size of a narrow room in a house, already has two apple and two peach trees. The students on Wednesday were working on building raised-bed boxes designed for a robotics watering system, which will soon house a variety of produce that can be grown in both sun and shade. The garden will eventually have a pond with fish, a fenced area for frogs and turtles, birdhouses and a bat house.

"York doesn't have a zoo, but there are other ways to make nature come alive," Gojmerac said.

Gojmerac hopes that the garden will be open to the public by July, though the date depends on the weather.

The courtyard: Opposite the Royal Square Garden will sit a courtyard. Currently, volunteers are working to fix up the area for public use, but Krout-Althoff said that the space, which is comparable to the garden, won't be used to its fullest potential until 2018.

Until then it will be a space for locals to spend time in, but eventually Krout-Althoff hopes that it will become an area for public gatherings, educational purposes, community events and even concerts. Eventually lights and murals will decorate the walls surrounding both the garden and the courtyard.

Krout-Althoff was excited to have the HYPE program working with her and the other volunteers from the Royal Square District.

"It's a great opportunity for youth to get involved in the community and give back to the community," she said. "We're so grateful to them, we couldn't do this without them."

Local community members interested in volunteering to work with the garden or courtyard are encouraged to email Debbie Krout-Althoff at

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