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Compiling the Evidence: Recognizing a Community Leader By Following in His Footsteps

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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 team is working towards creating the Augustin Roberto "Bobby" Salcedo Memorial Garden at Mountain View High School. The installation of a native garden will honor Mr. Salcedo while beautifying the campus and create a space for the school community to come together to learn about and become stewards of the environment.

The garden will allow students to learn about Mr. Salcedo's lifelong contributions to the El Monte community, from his work as a Kiwanis member to the founding of the El Monte Coalition of Latino Professionals, as well as his commitment to education and local youth. The garden will connect the school with individuals in the community who were colleagues of Mr. Salcedo, some of whom were co-workers at MVHS.

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, compared to a traditional garden, a native garden uses "77% less water, produces 66% less waste, and requires 68% less labor." This is significant to our campus because of the limited staff and resources MVHS has, due to budget cuts. The needs of a native garden better meet the limited resources our school has available. Furthermore, California is in the middle of the worst drought in 1,200 years and maintaining a low water consumption garden is vital for sustainability and to exemplify the importance of conservation to the school community. The garden will provide students a tangible example of how the drought is affecting California and what they can do to preserve water. Our team plans to use drip irrigation and develop a plan to water the sections of the garden intermediately.

Proposed MVHS Garden Location
Proposed MVHS Garden Location
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A native plant garden | Photo: FarOutFlora/Flickr/Creative Commons

One of the main reasons our team was interested in working on this issue was to address the need for a more interactive way of teaching science and home economics. For example, the biology curriculum includes the development of cells and the garden will provide both physical and visual examples for the students. For home economics classes, the garden can be added to the curriculum as a section on maintaining a garden and cultivating a food to table menu. The garden offers an opportunity to establish an outdoor classroom that can service a variety of classes. A Garden Club can be established to help coordinate the use of the garden by different classes and clubs, as well as its care and maintenance. The club will allow students to share in a common interest and participate in its growth.

Additional reasons for the garden are to beautify the campus and increase MVHS Viking morale. We can strive to have the most green campus in the El Monte Union High School District. The other high schools in the District will in turn take the Bobby Salcedo Memorial Garden as an example for their own garden, creating a domino effect of green. Consequently, this could foster a healthy competition between the High Schools and ideally a network to share resources that can increase the sustainability of all the gardens.

In order to gain more insight on establishing a school garden we interviewed Ms. Lee Porter, MVHS science department, and Mr. Pete Ceniceros, MVHS maintenance. Ms. Porter teaches the Principles to Engineering class, as well as leads the Solar Cup club on campus. She recounted efforts to establish an orchard on the campus in the past and how her plans were halted when she discovered fencing would not be provided. In regards to our project, she said, "The garden should be a school-wide project," and offered her support. She also shared that in order to secure a grant to fund the garden, it should at first not be open to the community. "Establishing the garden for the school community first is most important," she said. We agree with Ms. Porter and plan to first focus on establishing the garden and developing a way for the school to participate in nurturing it. After this is done, then we can start thinking about expanding it. With Ms. Porter's support we plan to utilize the ideas she shared with us as we help move the garden forward. She is continuing to work towards establishing an orchard on school grounds.

Mr. Ceniceros provided information on the irrigation system available on campus in the proposed area for the garden. He also provided input as to where he envisioned the garden's location and how the garden should be cared for. "I feel like [the garden] would be better next to the varsity baseball field. There's already water irrigation there and more people would see [the garden]. The location behind the JV baseball field is good, but I feel that no one will see it." Our group took his recommendations into consideration, but ultimately decided to keep our current location, as it is larger and we found from the surveys we conducted that this location is liked by most students.

Surveys responses from MVHS students

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These surveys along with other forms of outreach were collected at the MVHS Cafe Bibliotheque and Open House to raise awareness and gather support for the garden. Our team, along with The Streets, attended Cafe Bibliotheque to promote our projects. We appealed to students and staff to share their thoughts, ideas, and support for the garden on postcards and a support letter at the Open House. A majority of the responses were positive, with many voicing support for a plaque for Mr. Salcedo, specific flowers, and benches for students.

Postcards with suggestions and ideas for the garden

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Next Steps

We plan to break ground in June, followed by a series of service events to help establish and nurture the garden. We plan to maintain the garden by creating a gardening club and continuing to reach out to our community for volunteers. We will be doing a call out for donations such as garden tools, soil, and money in order to make this garden a success. We plan on recognizing donors by placing their names in visible areas in the garden.

The Bobby Salcedo Memorial Garden will be a place where the school community can look to with pride.

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