"UCHS Garden is Sacred"


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      by Kirtrina Baxter | 07/23/2014
      Philadelphia School Gardening
      A wonderful sentiment about the University City High School Garden. By former teacher, Martin Galvin
      Looking back, one of the hardest things about being a teacher at UCHS was witnessing the number of students and their family members we lost to violence over the years. However one of the most joyous things for me was also watching countless youngsters ‘flourish’ because of their involvement in the school garden. Those of us who have toiled its earth know in a very real way the difference the garden made and continues to make in the lives of so many children. Indeed the garden is a place where youngsters from an area with one of the highest levels of nutrition related illness in the country become educated to expert level about food and health. It is where lasting friendships that bridge neighbourhood, race, class and generations are formed. It is where family incomes are supplemented through after-school and summer work programmes. It is where the school curriculum comes alive and becomes experiential, relevant and engaging. Most importantly it demonstrates what youngsters from West Philly can do to contribute to their community if given half a chance. I could go on and on, but suffice to say that this particular garden is much much more than a garden!

      The UCHS/ Drew students and teachers, AUNI staff and Penn students, and the surrounding neighbours, who were involved in the early days of the gardens development, will never forget that memorable Saturday when you all came together to put the fence and Gazebo up and lay the first of the gardens beds. It was a momentous day and truly a spectacle to see so many many people from diverse backgrounds coming together, all with a common purpose – to do something positive and uplifting for the community together. The sound of Willie Brown’s construction crew hammering the roof onto the Gazebo late in the evening will never be erased from my memory. That day and all the days like it since, have formed a generation of great people who are now contributing positively to communities, families, and workplaces throughout Philadelphia and beyond. It has been astonishing to watch the commitment and dedication of so many to the Garden over the years and the rewards they have reaped in doing so.

      Thus wisdom born of experience tells us that the collective endeavour that the Garden represents really really matters. It is not insignificant. It should not be lightly discounted and quietly ‘paved over’. The powers that be need to exercise their power responsibly; all the more so given the history of this community and its experience of being run roughshod over time and time again. The community has clearly said that they want green spaces and schools, and believe me this will be echoed by a generation of local citizens who ‘grew up’ in the UCHS / Drew garden. Dr’s Fry and Kerman would be wise to pay heed and adjust their plans (only slightly in reality) to accommodate this garden and the decade long commitment made by West Philadelphia youth to their community that it represents!

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