EAST JORDAN — East Jordan High School students on Friday marked the completion of a $75,000 fundraising initiative to enhance the elementary school’s gardening program.
The Shoe Club, a group in high school devoted to fostering student motivation and self-esteem, has been working on the “Seed to Salad” project since September. The project expanded on the existing East Jordan Elementary School garden with additions such as a circle house, allowing more space to grow produce year-round, and a larger composting system. On Earth Day, club members held an inauguration ceremony for the facility upgrade in front of an audience of elementary school students and staff, parents and community members.
“It feels great to know that the community is interested in this and that we have made a difference in this community,” said eighth grader Riley Campbell.
The park, which serves as a hands-on learning experience for elementary school students, will be able to operate throughout the year as a result of the efforts of high school students.
“It definitely helps elementary school kids learn the basics of gardening and healthy living, and therefore builds the foundation for the rest of their lives,” said Mailey Hamilton, an 11th grader and one of the club’s three high school mentors. “It’s more than just a day at the park. They learn skills, grow friendships, and all that comes with it.”
Jayde Fazio and Elke Knauf are also high school mentors.
This is the second year in a row the club has worked on such a significant community project. Last year, the group managed to organize and fund a $70,000, 30 kilowatt hour solar panel installation in middle and high schools.
The Shoe Club has been around since 2008, founded by guru Matt Hamilton. Clubs typically engage in activities such as leadership conferences and volunteer work, while practicing character traits such as goal setting, self-esteem, and empathy.
Again:Seed to salad: East Jordan Shoe Club kicks off new project with fundraising effort
Again:East Jordanian students unveil new solar array on Earth Day
“The overall goal of the Shoe Club is to teach these kids to really respect themselves, and then respect other people,” Hamilton said. “I said we didn’t have a bullying problem or a drug problem or any of that, we had a grades problem … and trying to teach kids how to set goals, and then work towards those goals is key to the club.”
Last year, after the COVID-19 epidemic made field trips impossible, Hamilton led students on the year-long Solar Spark project. Although the club had more opportunities to travel this year, the solar project was so successful that a similar project was put into club activities again this year.
The work is all student-led, and involves planning and strategizing, setting financial goals, contacting businesses and organizations for donations, and working in the garden to prepare improvements.
Each student involved in the club gets a turn on the podium on Friday to present a portion of the prepared commentary on the work leading up to that point.
“I was pretty nervous about doing it, but when I finally got there and started reading, my anxiety was gone, and it was a lot more fun than I thought it would be,” says eighth grader Ellis Malpass. “And once I’m done you have to see all the smiles on everyone’s faces, and good luck that their money was well spent or will be well spent.”
The project was assisted by adult mentors Jen Lewis and Angela Barrera, who are involved with the current garden program, and Melissa Lyons from the kitchen staff.
“I am impressed with the children and the work they have done this year, and am grateful for the community and support the community has consistently provided the children in our community,” Hamilton said. “We couldn’t have done something like this without the support of the community.”