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Aliyah Simcoff: Love Our City

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With the coming of the spring, we’ve also welcomed three new members to our Urban Leaders in Training (ULT) team: Aliyah Simcoff, Emerson Sample and Libby Shafer who volunteer their time with Sustainable Roots, an initiative of the Northwest Leadership Foundation.  Sustainable Roots is an environmentally focused initiative dedicated to creating sustainable relationships with urban youth, school gardens, and low-income marginalized communities.  By educating at-risk youth about gardening, food systems and the environment, Sustainable Roots is creating a future generation of confident workers focused on a “greening” society. 

Along with director Monty Smith and a slew of volunteers, they support youth in school, after school and during summer garden projects maintaining and enhancing school garden sites that go unattended during the summer to produce food for food banks and direct distribution to persons and neighborhoods in need.

I went to UPS for my undergrad, then traveled a little (Africa, India, Europe), and I kept having these experiences where I thought “These things are happening in Tacoma, they are happening in my home too.”  I originally wanted to do the whole international humanitarian thing, but then it hit me one day how much Tacoma has to offer.  The potential in this city for growth and compassion and healing is amazing.  I just want to be a part of that energy.  All these motivated, intelligent, supportive people.  And there is so much more I have to learn about this city, I can’t wait.

I remember the moment I was in India and I had to decide if I was going to enroll in spring semester classes at UPS- it took “going away” to realize how much I appreciated Tacoma, to realize just how much I wanted to be a part of it on some deeper level than beyond what I was learning at UPS.


Watching pastries fly by us, sipping on chamomile tea (she had tea, I had a triple Americano) and relishing in a moment where we could both stop and talk about our shared passions, I was
taken by this young woman’s self possession- her quiet confidence in the work of Sustainable Roots.  It is this calmness that drives her every action. On one of those perfect Spring days last week, I walked down to Corina Bakery to 
meet Aliyah and talk about her work with Sustainable Roots.  We talked of her time off in between her Sophomore and Junior years as a student at University of Puget Sound to travel and volunteer.  After a stint in India she wound up on the Western Coast of Africa collecting and analyzing data on the food and water systems of the small village.  It was here that she realized the direct link sustainable food sources have on a community’s health and well-being; it was here that she found her passion and drive.  She returned to UPS to get her degree and continues to work for local food sources in her beloved Tacoma community.  

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Along with several part-time jobs, Aliyah gives time to Sustainable Roots and kids at Roosevelt High School.  During her travels she, “realized how much more effective it was if someone from the community itself was involved [with community improvement work], how much more meaningful it was all across the board”, which is why she continues the good work she does to show her love for our city.