GARD goes above and beyond to help at-risk young people gain employable skills and thrive.
The Gilbert Agricultural and Rural Development Center (GARD) is a nonprofit, independent vocational school that focuses on helping young people between the ages of 16 and 35 gain a variety of skills they can use to enter and compete in the global work environment. Many of the students are school dropouts, at-risk youth, single parents, ex-offenders, and women.
GARD originated in 1989 with a successful two-year pilot project aimed at making a social investment in the young people on the island. A passionate and committed staff, dedicated volunteers, and strategic partners that include the Mill Reef Fund have enabled GARD to make tremendous strides over the years in the programs and services it offers its clientele.
Today, the organization provides classes in agriculture, beekeeping, business development, entrepreneurship, computer literacy, basic math, and English, all aimed at helping students achieve meaningful job or career goals.
The Covid pandemic made island residents very aware of the need for food security, and increasingly interested in gaining agricultural skills. An aquaponics class is now offered at GARD, and MRF funded a 16-week evening course called Agricultural Enterprise Development in 2023. The class covered agri-business, backyard gardening, crop production, hydroponics, integrated pest management, and other agricultural topics.
The Fund also sponsors sewing classes, and one graduate went on to make and sell face masks during the Covid pandemic. In addition, care packages financed by MRF were gratefully received by 50 single-mother households during the pandemic.