A 10th grader at Charter High School for Architecture and Design (CHAD), committed teen leadership assistant (TLA) at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and basketball player for his school team, Amir Evers knows good food fuels good work. But he never found himself in the kitchen until he joined Get HYPE Philly! (GHP)—a city-wide initiative for youth development, funded by GSK and brought to teens by several organizations including the Free Library.
At Parkway Central Library and the North Philadelphia libraries, GHP is primarily known for food education where teens have fun learning through cooking. Lessons often incorporate topics such as nutrition and culture as well as opportunities to practice hard and soft skills like science, math, teamwork, and flexibility.
"[Get HYPE Philly!] has a good vibe," says Amir. "It’s a program that helps youth learn cooking and simple techniques that… are better than buying [food] at a corner store."
Amir is a TLA at the Ramonita G. de Rodriguez Library and—despite an initial hesitation—now has one of the highest GHP attendance rates for the library, participating in nearly one dozen lessons on recipes such as smoothie making and homemade granola bars. The popcorn-making class, where students learned how to season and popcorn kernels in a skillet, remains Amir’s favorite.
"Each time we did a new thing, I made sure I paid attention and enjoyed doing it, especially with the popcorn," says Amir. "I tasted almost every [spice] until I finally found [the combination] of things that made it taste right."
Culinary Collaboration Coordinator Aurora Sanchez remembers the popcorn making class, too. "We took our time smelling and discussing lots of different herbs and spices together before making the popcorn," says Aurora. "At the end of the program, Amir wanted me to taste his popcorn explaining that he had worked diligently on blending the spices to perfection. It tasted like a healthy popcorn you would buy, with its light, sweet and savory flavor. I was genuinely impressed and pleased that he immersed himself in seasoning the popcorn, trying multiple combinations until he created a legitimately marketable healthy snack."
Amir says Get HYPE Philly! is critical for teaching teens other lessons too, like knife safety, hygiene, and keeping an open mind.
"When I sit around with my grandma or other people now I’ll tell them, 'You didn’t wash your hands yet' or about healthier food," shares Amir.
Moving forward, Amir plans to continue cooking with GHP while also working towards a special design and engineering program. Meanwhile, Get HYPE Philly! will continue to help even more teens like Amir prepare to be successful in their communities.
Teens, Join Us
Get HYPE Philly!'s free culinary literacy programs happen from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at several neighborhood library locations. We encourage anyone ages 12 to 18-years-old to come check it out! Download our Get HYPE Philly! Programs Calendar or browse for our events online.