In lieu of all that is happening in the world, we believe in supporting and uplifting those that are working to leave the Earth a touch better than they found it. Enter Alma Community Outreach. A program providing diversified curriculum in partnership with public schools located in low-income communities, the brains behind the purpose are strong, empowered, and inspiring. ACO teaches students about the process of harvesting, empowering students with knowledge on the food they put in their bodies and their own neighborhood food system. Taking a holistic approach to wellness, ACO works to support the physical, emotional, and social well being of the next generation.
In addition to providing services that directly affect communities within Los Angeles, Alma has a farm based here in Los Angeles. On Earth Day, Live FAST joined the women of ACO and got our hands dirty. I made a point to ask each woman what keeps them motivated. As someone who admires those who do the work necessary to produce a better world, I’m always interested to know what keeps people propelling forward. Photographed by Nitsa Citrine and Tasya van Ree of Women With Superpowers, the ladies dawned sustainable clothing from the Los Angeles-based SEEKER, AWAVEAWAKE and EVERYBODY.WORLD and shared their wisdom with me.
Ashleigh Parsons and Courtney Guerra are two of the main brains behind the organization. Ashleigh, co-founder of Alma and founder of ACO, and Courtney Guerra, director of ACO, both share beautiful visions for the next generation. “I believe that in order to create a world that is more sustainable, we must teach the next generation to nourish themselves, nourish their community, and nourish their earth, ” states Ashleigh when asked about her personal connection to ACO. Courtney can visibly see her impact on the communities she serves, citing her son as a huge source of inspiration to keep investing in the future, believing that “the generations ahead of us hold the key to healing our planet, our communities, and ushering the world into a new global society.”
As they say, it takes a village, and the crew of talented women who keep ACO afloat are unique in their own right. Montzerrat teaches third grade and welcomed a wellness curriculum into her classroom with open arms. I asked what her motivations are, what keeps her invested in serving young, budding minds every single day. Her answer was simple, “Giving students access to information and empowering them to become biliterate, critical thinkers motivates me.” Her perspective is exemplary of ACO’s well-rounded, holistic approach to education. Araz Martin, ACO’s wellness curriculum teacher, believes in her daughter’s right to grow old and live a happy life – something that she says “begins with me the making right choices for the environment.”
Chelsea Hagler, the Senior Public Relations Manager at Equinox and a member on the ACO board alongside the vivacious and warm Vivian Ho, mentioned that nature is one of her mentors. Positioning Mother Earth as a mentor was a brilliant reminder that the planet we live on is far greater than any single organism. “Living systems grow and evolve in diversity, union, and resilience. It’s really a playful and creative thing – it amazes me that it’s doing so without any effort at all.” Vivian, an event producer/stylist/florist/jack of all trades, sees the introduction to dynamic and unique beings as her driving force – making it no surprise that ACO has become such an important part of her life. As I listened to each individual share their hopes and dreams for the future, I was enthralled by how forward thinking they each are in their purpose. As someone who champions living in the moment, I felt like a student amongst gurus while I watched every woman work diligently in the moment while keenly focused on the future.
While I deeply admire each of the women connected to ACO, my interest was piqued by the volunteers that were on deck. Lisa Tahk, co-founder of Closer LLC, an agency that represents Korean fashion brands in the US market, volunteers her time in the classrooms and is motivated by empowering youth, reminding me that food is life, and life itself is energizing. Miye R McCullough, a creative producer for art/literary journal & knitwear line Hesperios, cited her father being a product of the Fresh Air Fund in Philly as a motivator. This prompted her to volunteer her time at ACO, as she realized that many conversationists and naturalists that she respects found their purpose through small grassroots organizations like this. Veda Romero sees ACO as an opportunity to offer solutions that can produce widespread change in the community she grew up in. Sylvia Chivaratanond, a curator and consultant here in Los Angeles, is motivated by justice in the world – a simple yet powerful driving force.
I suppose the most magical thing about this day was the diverse stories of the women involved. Each inspiring in their own right, every individual saw their high purpose reflected in ACO, deciding to join forces and create an unstoppable drive of positivity. Interested in Alma Community Outreach? Visit here for more information.