Alumni Lend Helping Hands in Garden

A handful of Ford Scholar Alumni turned out for an Earth Day work party in the new learning garden at Gilbert Park Elementary School on Saturday, April 20, 2013, in Portland.

The garden space, which is in a courtyard-type setting in the middle of the school, used to be an area of grass, weeds and shrubbery that was not being utilized by students and staff.

“The garden educator at the school has done a fabulous job transforming the space with the help of after-school student volunteers who do so as part of a program,” said Marija (Kovacevic) Hobbs, who pulled weeds alongside six other alumni.

Each part of the garden has a story. There are two memorial gardens for students who have lost their lives. Students can quietly practice literacy skills in a natural setting in the reading garden near the library. There is an outdoor classroom, edible plants for each grade level in raised beds and native plants in many areas.

“The weather was perfect,” said former Ford Scholar Alumni Association President Andrea Smith. “A little overcast, no rain, not hot or cold.” The garden project is important to the kids at this school, many of whom are from refugee families, she added.

Hobbs and Smith worked alongside alumni Mary Chuinard, Shauna Harper, Tami Ammerman, Leana Dickerson and Robert Teel as well as a few other volunteers. Teel, an FSAA member at large, organized the Earth Day work party through Hands On Greater Portland with the purpose of increasing FSAA member engagement and serving the community.