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Clearing a Patch: Students Get Their School Garden Going

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This is part of a series of multimedia stories curated through a collaboration between Earthworks Farm and KCETLink. Watch a segment from KCET's "SoCal Connected" and visit the project hub for more information.

For many students the first day of spring break marks a day of relaxation at home, but for a group of students at Arroyo High School in El Monte it was an opportunity to get their hands dirty in their school's new garden.

The motivated group was made up of members of the garden club and their advisers, as well as a few parents. The club had recently been formed by Youth Voices members Mable T., Tiffany D.,Stephanie T., Brianna M., and Savana L., who together make up team Go Green AHS. The team has been working on the development of the garden for several months, reaching out to students, teachers, and the administration. In the process they discovered that a garden had already been proposed and an area designated for its development. They quickly began working with Mr. Daniels, one of the originators of the idea, along with their Journalism teacher, Ms. Swanson.

Mr. Daniels, Science Department Chair, has offered the students his experience with the first iteration of the garden and knowledge of working within the dynamics of a school environment. His commitment to the project, and more specifically to the students, was evident on this day. Along with providing access to the garden and water, he also brought the gardening tools and soil for the garden. "I want people to know how great the students are here at Arroyo. I mean look at what they're doing for the school and surrounding community. It's a great thing."

Brianna and fellow students till the soil and de-weed

Brianna was working hard taking out weeds, turning the soil, and taking photos of her fellow gardeners. She was also sharing and evaluating the next steps for the garden. Through participation in the Youth Voices media literacy and civic engagement program, she along with her teammates have written and published articles, conducted interviews, and developed a schedule for the garden that will take them through this academic year and into the fall. The schedule includes this clean-up, as well as fundraising, presenting to the El Monte Union High School District Board, and developing a plan for summer care of the garden. Members of Go Green AHS have prepared for this by participating in workshops with Earthworks Farm and by working closely with Amigos de los Rios to learn the best practices for developing and caring for a garden. In the process they have established strong community partnerships that will continue to nurture and sustain their dream.

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The students involved with Go Green AHS are incredibly self motivated, and have taken this opportunity and made it their own. Beyond the garden, they envision the creation of a Farmer's Market at their school and a chance to provide healthy food options to the school and their community. Sometimes students only need a glimpse of a possibility to be able to create their own vision and put it into action.

According to Mr. Daniels, the next immediate step is for the students to reach out to the school's neighbors and inform them about the garden and how they can be involved. One of his key objectives is to show that the school and students are valuable assets that, if supported, can help transform the health and well being of their community. Like the student's energy, his hope is high.

Stay tuned for the next clean up and planting day for the garden.

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