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Community Interview: The Teacher Who Foresees the Garden's Future

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Ms.Porter provides students with the support they need to move their school garden plan forward
Ms.Porter provides students with the support they need to move their school garden plan forward.

Youth Voices is working with students from Mountain View High School to explore El Monte/South El Monte and the surrounding communities. The students have formed teams to explore and investigate their communities, map assets, collect and share stories, data and community input for their projects. All the while they are learning and expanding their knowledge of digital media and civic engagement. Follow their work here and on Instagram and Twitter by using #kcetyv.

The Flower Bears want to create a memorial garden at Mountain View High School in honor of Mr. Agustín Roberto "Bobby" Salcedo, former El Monte City School District (EMCSD) board member and MVHS alumnus, to promote environmental education. The Garden is significant to Mountain View because Mr. Salcedo had a huge impact in the community and we hope that the garden will commemorate his legacy. For instance, he promoted a college-going culture by becoming a founding member of the El Monte Coalition of Latino Professionals.

In our efforts to make the garden a reality, the Flower Bears identified an individual that can help and support our cause. Ms. Lee Porter, science department teacher at Mountain View High School, has worked at MVHS for eight years as a biology, chemistry, and engineering teacher and is the adviser for the Solar Cup Club. She has been working on establishing an orchard since before the current principal, Mr. Larry Cecil, took his position at MVHS. Ms. Porter was brought to our attention by Mr. Michael Weller, MVHS English department, who informed us that she had tried to start a garden on campus but her plans had been stalled. Consequently, we scheduled an interview and sat down with her and asked her a variety of questions regarding the garden we plan to establish and the one she had envisioned.

Ms. Porter is a key person for our cause because she has resources from her previous attempt to establish an orchard that can help us now as we are attempting the same cause. Ms. Porter attended a TreePeople workshop about six to seven years ago, during which she was introduced to a variety of local agencies that could provide grants, compost, soil enhancements, seeds, and more.

The lot that was chosen for the orchard was on the north side of the campus by the girls' softball diamonds because it already had an existing water supply. Ms. Porter personally tested the soil to confirm that it was fertile and nutrient rich. The main obstacle to her acquiring funding was the lack of fencing for the location where she planned to establish the orchard. She also revealed how some grants can be very restrictive and limited. For instance, if we open the garden to the community, like we plan to, the grant may be rejected. "The garden shouldn't be open to the community yet, establishing it first is important." She gave up on establishing the orchard after a two year struggle.

Proposed site for Bobby Salcedo Memorial Garden at MVHS
Proposed site for Bobby Salcedo Memorial Garden at MVHS

The location Ms. Porter was scouting is different from the one we are considering, which is a 10 x 10 lot behind the tennis courts near the river bed. Ms. Porter believes that maintaining the garden should be a "student project" and during the summer the garden will need a crew to come and maintain the grounds. She also told us that the garden she envisions is an edible one with an orchard. This type of garden would be open to anyone in the school such as Ms. Lori Chavez and Melissa Ferdinandus, from the school's Culinary Arts Department, who plan to grow herbs. She is also open to a native garden because it conserves water and will teach students about the natural vegetation of California.

From this interview, we were exposed to new resources and important issues to consider as we prepare to advocate and seek funding for our garden. For example, we did not consider much about the maintenance and Ms. Porter gave us great insight. She recommended that it will be easier if the garden was maintained by the students, however, during the summer, she worries that there will be a lack of volunteers. In addition, Ms. Porter has provided us with a key organization, TreePeople, that will be able to help us establish the garden and provide us with the resources to nurture it.

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