Seeds of Service: Senior’s long term plan for garden comes to life


Some say the opportunities to generate an incredible impact are rare for Cedar Falls High School, but through the seeds of perseverance of senior Agatha Fenech on a project long in the planning, maybe this assertion will be proved otherwise.

It all began when Fenech witnessed Davenport Central’s school garden last year, which the school had recently built right next to their building. Fenech began to think of the great impact that starting a student run garden at Cedar Falls could initiate. “Even though Iowa’s primary industry is agriculture, many Cedar Falls students, including myself before this project, don’t know that much about where their food comes from,” Fenech said.

That was not the only inspiration behind starting the garden. Fenech also wanted to raise awareness for locally-grown food and community health, and with the idea of the garden already underway, one question still remained: how is the school going to be able to fund a garden? Having been a member of the State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council (SIYAC) for the past year, Fenech picked up the idea for a grant from her SIYAC advisor. Fenech applied for the grant, submitted a project proposal, budget plan and list of qualifications to be an ambassador.

The grant was given through Youth Service America, which distributes grants and designates a National Child Awareness Ambassador, only giving out one per state. Months later, Fenech received word that she was selected as the National Child Awareness Month Ambassador for Iowa.

“One of the best parts of being an ambassador and receiving this grant was going to the fully paid Ambassador training in Washington, D.C., last September. I got to meet all the youth ambassadors, hear about their projects, meet with Senator Grassley to discuss the project, and learn a lot about successfully executing a large-scale service project,” Fenech said.

After receiving the grant, which supplied Fenech with $1,000, she started on the initial prep work for the garden. The location of the garden is behind the high school between the auto mechanics classroom and the track. Green club adviser Ethan Weichmann helped with tilling the garden, then Kamyar Enshayan, a community expert on gardening and locally grown food options, taught Fenech about planting a cover crop, which would enhance the soil’s nutrient level so that it would be ready for planting in the spring.

When spring rolled around, the garden had to be retilled, and Fenech also decided to place wood chip paths.

Finally, this last Sunday, April 26, with the weather being sunny and gorgeous, all of the hard work in preparation for planting was finally put to the test. Several volunteers from Senior Leadership, Student Senate and a few other interested students came back to the garden to help with its very first planting.

The team planted eight different vegetables, including lettuce, squash, honey squash, spinach, beets, cucumbers, peppers and carrots.

“It was the perfect day for planting, and we got it done in under an hour. Best of all, I think everyone had a really good time planting, getting down in the earth and working together,” Fenech said.

Fenech’s sense of accomplishment beamed as she talked of her vision of a school garden finally becoming a reality. As the garden continues to thrive, Fenech is going to continue to work on it along with other volunteers, who are mostly sophomores and juniors, for they will be the ones that will keep it running next year.

The experience of making the garden come to life, has had a major impact on Fenech. “It has been fantastic. It is a really empowering experience to take on a project of this scale and engage so many CFHS students. I hope this encourages other students to pursue their passion through service projects and involve other students. Being an ambassador has also been a phenomenal position; I can say I have a friend in every state, and it was really cool to meet people from all over the country who are interested in the same things I am,” Fenech said.

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