Sprouting Seeds of Change

Photo credit to Janell Bradley at Fayette County Papers

Pictured: Briana Morey, Ashley Buzynski, and Katie Lay (Photo credit to Janell Bradley at Fayette County Papers)

Through FFI, I work with three school districts to develop school wellness.  It may seem simple, but my position requires me to be a chef, a teacher, a mentor, a gardener, an event planner, a youth coach, a grant writer, and much more.  I can honestly say that I’m never bored with my work, but I also know that I enjoy some aspects more than others.  One thing I’ve learned about myself from my service term is how much I enjoy working with young people and engaging them in projects focused on growth and sustainability.

Fourteen of the eighteen school districts we work in have high school Food and Fitness Teams.  These teams work throughout the school year to implement cross-age teaching lessons, fitness drills, and many other projects.  The youth team at West Central CSD is unique in my mind, both because of their members and what they’ve been able to accomplish this year.

 

In November, Briana Morey and Ashley Buzynski , the Youth Team Reps for West Central, started brainstorming long term goals for wellness at WC.  After much discussion, the girls decided that a good long-term goal for their team would be to have a greenhouse built at their school.  Since this initial brainstorming session, I have been working with the youth team to make their idea a reality.  We decided we would ultimately need funding, support from the school board, and teachers interested in the project.  To accomplish funding, I agreed to help the school apply for grants and Briana and Ashley decided that the youth team could sell healthy snacks after school to raise money.

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In February, Ashley, Briana, and I presented our idea to the WC School Board and they were very interested. They told us to continue seeking funding for the project and that we would have permission, pending funding, to build the structure.  Then, in late March, the school was awarded a grant from Fuel up to Play 60.   I helped Lauren Adams, the FCS teacher, to apply for several other grants, and we decided to wait until we’d been notified of the other decisions before moving forward.

 

In late May, the school received an additional grant from the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Award.  Suddenly, we had more than enough funding to construct a substantial greenhouse at the school. To further develop the project that Briana and Ashley envisioned, I reached out to local farmer Mike Bollinger, who co-founded Four Seasons Tools, a greenhouse manufacturing company.  With help from Four Seasons and the support of the Superintendent, Food Service Director, and several teachers at WC, we have developed a preliminary plan that will allow the school to use the greenhouse space for education throughout the school year once construction is finished on West Central’s new school building and the greenhouse can be installed in its final location.  Additionally, by sourcing vegetables from the greenhouse, food service at WC will be able to use fresh, local products practically year-round.

I am incredibly proud of this project and the support I’ve received from the school to make it a reality.  However, I am most proud of the growth and dedication I have witnessed from the youth team, especially Briana and Ashley.  Because of their ideas, the entire school district will benefit from increased access to healthy, local food and a new, exciting learning opportunity.  My involvement with West Central has encouraged me to continue working with students on grass roots efforts and shown me how rewarding and inspiring a few seeds of change can be.

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