Interesting times call for creative measures for sure. Such is the case with rising Milwaukee musical star Lex Allen, as well as Charlie Uihlein and his non-profit group, Teens Grow Greens. While the social distancing and quarantine rules have caused the cancellation and/or postponement of so many people’s plans, it has not taken any of the passion out of these two amazing Milwaukeeans. Charlie Uihlein, a former high school teacher, noticed a need to teach life skills, interpersonal skills, and resume building skills to youth- topics that are not always covered directly within a high school curriculum. Uihlein started Teens Grow Greens, a program that teaches youth business skills, entrepreneurship, public speaking, health, wellness, and green living. The program, which started in 2014 helps mentor 25 teens each semester from Milwaukee’s north side and recently, based on its success, has added an additional 15 youth from Milwaukee’s south side as well. The teens learn how to grow food in Weber’s Greenhouse, where they also sell their plants. While Teens Grow Greens has traditionally been an in-person mentoring and skill-building program, the COVID19 pandemic has forced some creative thinking.
From left; AJ, Juan (Mentee) and Bethanie in the garden of Journey House (Our Southside TGG Site). During the summer, the Teens mentor 3rd, 4th and 5th graders in how to grow and cook food and build charcter traits through our summer program, Kids Grow Greens. 2019 was the pilot for TGG Southside and we now offer the full nine-month internship for teenagers that live or go to school in select southside neighborhoods.
Jaden, a Graduate of TGG and now an Agricultural Apprentice at Webers Greenhouse. The Greenhouse is owned and operated by TGG as a way to employ Graduates and expose them to career paths in Agriculture through our Youth Apprenticeship program. The greenhouse offically opens for the season on May 2nd and now offers curbside pick-up for all online orders. “We’ve moved all of the classwork online these days,” stated Uihlein on a recent Zoom Call, “We have done all sorts of things to adapt to the current situation while also providing an amazing experience for our youth. The healthy living unit that the teens are participating in right now is more discussion-based and lends itself to an online format. We even have a virtual cooking class these days with funky fresh spring rolls.”
Likewise, Lex Allen, one of Milwaukee’s most unique and charismatic performers has recently had to adapt to the times. “I cried the day I lost all of the shows,” Allen shared in a recent Zoom call, “I was really down.” However, if there is one thing we know about Allen through his music is that he is a person who cannot stay down for long. “You choose every day when you wake up what your attitude is going to be,” Allen shared with a grin.
Allen has used this time to connect with his creative muse, get back into photography, a passion of his from an early age, and reconnect with other artists as well. Allen, a perfectionist regarding his performance and craft, will be broadcasting from a local studio he uses to record during this time, in an effort to put on his best show when he performs his “Rock the Stream” set this Thursday.
“This is a time to use your imagination a bit more,” Allen shared enthusiastically, “I imagine the audience is right there with me, and encourage others to get up and dance. It’s been so fun to get videos and pictures of people literally up and dancing in their homes during my online performances. For me, I go into the performance the same way, and want others to enjoy and have fun.”