Pulaski Grow is a non-profit youth job skills training program which operates inside a working aquaponics business.  

General About the Organization/Mission

Pulaski Grow offers a workforce readiness program for youth ages 14 to 18 inside an aquaponics (using fish to support hydroponically grown plants) business.  By creating a hands-on program that operates within a real business, youth are able to practice what they learn as they learn.  The Pulaski Grow program is working to address the huge regional need for job ready employees at the same time establishing a way of sustaining way the training program through the sale of fresh local produce year round. 

In addition to gaining experience in growing aquaponically, trainees learn skills such as: interviewing, resume writing, product research and development, marketing, and customer service.  Once they mastered the basic skills, trainees can move on to management and entrepreneurship training, as well as internships with local businesses and agencies.  

The vision for Pulaski Grow is to be known throughout the state and region as THE model for preparing youth for employment, while producing the highest quality products and offer exciting new ways to learn and grow as a community.

Basic Info

Type of Organization Non-profit
Primary Contact

Lee Spiegel, Program Director and Founder

[email protected] 

Social Media


Issues of Focus

The primary focus of Pulaski Grow is to create a pipeline of trained youth and young adults who not only understand how to find, secure and hold a job, but what it means to be a good employee, what initiative looks like, why dependability is so important and how your behavior effects other employees and the business.  Grow offers 5 levels of training that if completed take youth from Basic Job Skills to Entrepreneurship.  

The secondary focus is to create a sustainable business that not only supports the training program by providing opportunities for youth to acquire a variety of work experiences to add to their resume, but offers a way to cover the cost of the program in the future without dependence on grants.  The aquaponics business also meets the need for fresh locally grown produce and offers a chance to deliver educational programming and information on alternative growing techniques to the community.   

History of Organization

Twenty nine years ago Lee Spiegel envisioned a business that was being used to train youth business skills in a hands on real way.  As part of her prevention work with Pulaski Community Partners Coalition (PCPC), Spiegel and a team of volunteers piloted a training program for three summers that grew each year.  When grant funding for her coalition position came to an end, Spiegel made the decision to take her 30 years of youth development experience and expand the PCPC pilot training program and build a business around it. 

Spiegel worked with Pulaski County Planning and Zoning to identifying an underutilized property in the county that would meet the needs of the project.  With the support of the county and a number of volunteers, the rehab of the Cottage on the old Draper Elementary School site began on August 28, 2014.  By December the classroom and office had were completed and work on the greenhouse began.  In April of 2015 the first plants were started in greenhouse and a May 1st Open House was held.  During June and July youth were on site for both work experiences and training.  After just one year Pulaski Grow has a functioning aquaponics and hydroponics system, is providing training and work experiences and has provided it's first community training on aquaponics.

Programs and Projects 

Course Descriptions

Basic Job Skills includes topics such as finding a job, filling out applications, interviewing skills,  resumes, cover letters, and basic job etiquette.  Trainees also visit a number of businesses to talk with owners, managers and HR personnel and experience a filmed and graded mock interview,

Advanced Job Skills includes greater understanding of the nuts and bolts of the aquaponics business including maintenance, budgeting, product research/development, in depth sales and marketing work and practical experience with customer service.  Prerequisite: Completion Basic Job Skills

Beginning Management includes looking at different management styles, what responsibilities come with management, and what are traits of successful managers.  Trainees will also have a turn at managing various components of Pulaski Grow and helping with Basic Job Skills training.  Prerequisites: Completion Basic Job Skills and Advanced Job Skills. 

Advanced Management will include helping to manage youth employees, oversee a segment of the Pulaski Grow business and introduction to a business plan by looking at and updating the Pulaski Grow business plan.  Prerequisites: Completion Basic Job Skills, Advanced Job Skills and Beginning Management.

The Entrepreneurship course will be the most intensive, it will work with youth who have completed all the other courses and decide they want to gain the skills and knowledge to help them develop and operate their own business.  Prerequisites: Completion Basic Job Skills, Advanced Job Skills, Beginning Management and Advanced Management.

**Pulaski Grow accepts local and out-of-county teens.  They take no more than 10 per class.  You do not have to have previous work experience but your acceptance into the program is contingent upon successful completion of a drug test with negative results.  

Partners and Frequent Collaborators

  • Pulaski County Commission on Children and Families
  • Beans and Rice
  • Pulaski County Farm to School
  • The County of Pulaski

Future Developments for This Wiki



  • Appalachian Foodshed Project
  • Virginia
  • Pulaski County
  • Youth Training
  • Youth Job Skills
  • Aquaponics