Hi friends! My name is Shalyn Stack, and I am finishing up my second year as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Delta College in University Center, Michigan. I am the Program Director for Public Achievement (PA), a mentoring program working with at-risk K-12 schools in the Great Lakes Bay Region. The students at Delta College are trained to be mentors to the K-12 students participating in Public Achievement and guide them towards addressing everyday issues they face, such as bullying, equality, poverty, and give them the tools to make positive change in their community.
For the past four semesters, we’ve been partnering with the students at Washington Elementary, located in Bay City, Michigan. In the past, we’ve worked on a lot of projects relating to the issues they see in their community every day, such as bullying, poverty, food, and nutrition. This past semester, we took on our biggest project yet, a community and reading garden at Washington Elementary! Collaborating with the 4th grade teachers, and Washington’s principal, Dr. Tithof, we started planning this community and reading garden project. The 4th grade teachers will be taking care of the community garden and using it as a hands-on learning space for their students since plant life, plant growth, and ecosystems is a large part of their 4th grade science teaching curriculum. After planning the project and making sure it will be sustained, the PA mentors and students were ready to put their community garden plan into action!
In celebration of Earth Day (April 22nd), the 4th graders at Washington Elementary paired up with the Delta College Public Achievement mentors to make a community and reading garden on school grounds! First, we needed supplies. All of the PA coaches reached out to the community for monetary and in-kind donations. A variety of businesses donated seeds, gardening tools, plants, and gift cards. It was an amazing community effort, and once all the supplies were collected, we could get to work. Next, the 4th graders and the Delta College Mentors needed to clean up the area. They raked leaves, picked weeds, and laid down mulch around the plot boxes. After they were finished cleaning up the area, the students planted a variety of seeds in the plot boxes and planted pansies and violas along the fence. Once the garden was all cleaned up with new flowers, seeds, dirt, and mulch, we wanted to add a finishing touch to the garden. Each student left their mark by making a cement stepping stone with their handprint in it! These cement handprints outline the path along the community and reading garden. The 4th graders were happy to give back to their school and community by revitalizing this garden. I am very proud of the hard work these students put into the community garden on Earth Day! This was the largest project I coordinated as a VISTA, and is the project I am most proud of. It was a great way to end my service as a VISTA. Now I am ready to start my new position as one of the MNA VISTA Leaders for 2016-2017!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!