By: Leanne Bolano, senior at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon
Dougherty Valley High School has joined the pursuit for sustainability. For several days in late April and early May, a team of passionate students, teachers, parents, and community volunteers took part in planting the first starter plants and seedlings in Dougherty’s very first garden. It sits in the back of the school campus, behind the Culinary Arts classroom near the staff parking lot. Directed by Dougherty’s Culinary Arts teacher Beth Marks, this team of dedicated volunteers has worked for almost two years to bring some green to campus.
The long journey began back in early 2011, when I joined with my fellow Youth Service America (YSA) students at Dougherty and pitched the idea to construct, grow, and maintain a sustainable vegetable garden on campus. My main concern was the lack of environmental awareness at school. Knowing there were not any “go-green” clubs or even an AP Environmental Science class offered on campus, YSA thought a garden would do the trick for promoting sustainability at school. After teaming up with the Food for Thought club and culinary department at Dougherty who shared the same interest, the idea was proposed to the school administration by presenting a preliminary design and a funding spreadsheet. Following the wait for district approval, the planning and fundraising began. Now two years later, our idea for spreading environmentalism is a thriving reality.
The initial funds for this garden came from one of its several community partners, Whole Foods. After applying for their WholeKids school garden grant, Dougherty’s garden was graciously awarded $2,000. Mrs. Marks and her students also secured partnerships with Sustainable San Ramon, Morgan’s Masonry Supply in San Ramon, and Peet’s Coffee. All of these community organizations became a part of the team and helped with the funding, supplying, building, or planting of this garden.
The garden is now blooming and flourishing after hours of lifting cement blocks, shoveling soil, and planting. It includes a variety of herbs, peppers, tomatoes, lettuces, and strawberries, onions, and even pumpkins. Throughout the process, we learned so much more than how drip irrigation works or which soil is best. We learned the politics of working with others on a big project, and what it takes to exhibit qualities of leadership, maturity, and professionalism. With this small but purposeful garden, we hope to educate the community on the benefits of growing natural resources and recycling them back into the earth by using compost. We want to inspire people to spread the benefits of sustainable activities, such as growing a garden.