Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland hires Virzi for farm program

©DAVID LIAM KYLE 2016 - All Rights Reserved - -

Alys Virzi, who has extensive experience in horticulture and agricultural-based job training initiatives, has been named the new manager of the farm program at Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland.

In her new role, she oversees 10 teen Club members at BGCC’s Broadway Club, where they grow and harvest produce. Virzi is also charged with helping the teens develop farm-based job skills, including planning, scheduling, garden maintenance and the selling of produce at local markets.

BGCC’s farm consists of two hoop houses, gardens and storage facilities.

“I am honored to have a role in helping teens develop the skills they will need to find and keep employment,” Virzi says.

She adds, “We are currently developing farm plans for 2017, and it promises to be an exciting year with broader student involvement, increased opportunities for leadership and skill development, and deepening connections with other BGCC programs and the greater community.”

Virzi, who grew up in Westlake and now lives in Medina, attended Denison University in Granville, where she earned a bachelor’s degree sociology/anthropology and became interested in environmental studies. After graduation, she moved to Boston, where she did nonprofit fundraising before moving back to Westlake.

She earned a master’s degree in environmental studies from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., focusing on issues of urban ecology. Virzi moved back to Cleveland after graduation and worked in horticulture; for the past four years, she has been a job coach for an agriculture-based job-training program for adults with disabilities. In that role, she operated a 15,000-square-foot greenhouse that utilized both conventional and hydroponic methods and trained clients in agricultural practices and employment skills.

Renata Fossen Brown, BGCC’s director of program operations, says, “Alys brings extensive knowledge and experience in job coaching as well as horticulture, both of which are already benefitting our kids tremendously. She is the perfect person to transform our farm program into more of a hands-on, experiential program for even more of our members and the community at large.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland provides safe, fun places for kids after school. BGCC serves more than 8,600 youths annually at 15 sites in Cleveland, East Cleveland, Cleveland Heights and Garfield Heights.