Catherine Kirk firstname.lastname@example.org Delta Democrat Times |
While some children spent the summer browsing the Web or playing with fidget spinners, one group of Greenville Public School District students has been busy getting their hands dirty.
Since May, several 10th-12th grade GPSD students have been working on a community garden in conjunction with the Warren Washington Issaquena Sharkey Community Action Agency (WWISCAA).
On a small piece of land next to WWISCAA’s headquarters on Old Leland Road, one will find 41 rows of various vegetables and fruits, including tomatoes, eggplant, squash, cucumber, bell pepper, watermelon, jalapeño, okra, zucchini, cantaloupe and field peas. All have been planted by the students.
WWISCAA executive director Jannis Williams said she had been looking for a way to partner with GPSD’s technical center to offer its students a chance of having paid jobs — $8.25 per hour to be exact — over the summer, a time of year when many students stay cooped up inside.
Williams and GPSD decided on the agricultural program first and chose 12 students in the Future Farmers of American program. To be selected, the students had to exhibited good grades and behavior and have a desire to pursue a career in agriculture.
“I think a lot of times people just don’t realize what a great technical center we have and all the different curriculums they have out there,” Williams said, noting they are making plans to highlight the technical center’s other programs in the future.
Not only have these students stayed busy from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday — and some weekends — constructing and tending to a garden, they also have visited Alcorn State University, Leland’s Patterson Farms, Stoneville and more.
“We just wanted them to learn as much as they could about agriculture and know that it’s not just getting their hands dirty and it’s not just about farming,” Williams said, adding they have also spent some time sharing their knowledge with younger children at the Education Station by teaching them about gardening and healthy eating habits. They have even taken them on a tour of the garden.
As their garden has grown, with every student tending to two rows during the project, students have also had the chance to show off the fruits of their labor, which they recently did with a “Farmer’s Market” booth at WWISCAA’s 25th annual food fest. Students have also given much of their produce to various members of community.
Senior Shaquanna Dudley said although she has had some experience with gardening at her grandmother’s personal garden, she has never worked on a project of this size.
“I’ve been learning a lot and it has been tiring; it gets pretty hot out here,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed my coworkers and (teacher Canvas Delaney) and Mrs. Williams. They’ve been helping us get through everything and our challenges we have out here.”
And while the work can be tough, Dudley said this project has gotten her thinking about a career in agriculture.
“They make a lot of money,” she said with a laugh.
Having no prior gardening experience, junior Xamyah Redmond said she has learned a lot over the summer.
“I never grew anything before; this is my first time. It’s been interesting,” she said, noting while she isn’t fully convinced this is a career she wants to enter, it has expanded the possibilities.
Agriculture, Environmental, Science and Technology teacher Canvas Delaney said she has been impressed with the work her students have shown over the summer.
“I was very impressed with how they did the garden, the way they grew, managed and cared for their rows,” Delaney said.
“They’re excellent students. ... Some of them when they first came in didn’t want to be in the class and said they didn’t want to be farmers. But after being in my class and working with the project, they want to gain more knowledge on the ag industry and be in the profession.”
GPSD superintendent Janice Page-Johnson said the garden project allows students to participate in a good activity that offers them insight into potential careers in agriculture.
“Through our partnership with WWISCAA, we are able to provide students with opportunities that can be very valuable and beneficial to their future. As we prepare students to be college and career ready, we must give them exposure to agriculture which is a vital part of life in Greenville,” Page-Johnson said. “Agriculture is a huge field that we must consider for our students’ future employment in the Mississippi Delta and across our state.”
“According to United States Department of Agriculture, 21 million full- and part-time jobs were related to agriculture and food sectors. We must be committed to exposing and preparing our students for these job opportunities. With continued support from organizations like WWISCAA, we can have students participate in the garden project and hopefully others in the future,” Page-Johnson said.
With students returning to school today, the project is set to wrap up by Aug. 12. Although students won’t be able to tend to the garden daily, Williams said there will be someone tending to the garden during the week and students will be welcome to work on the garden over the weekends.