Fostering HOPE for the future

If you enjoy eating at local Taziki’s restaurants, chances are students at Vincent Middle/High School played a role in ensuring your meal was as tasty as possible.

Teachers and administrators at the school are taking the “outdoor classroom” concept to a new level, and the program is benefiting everyone involved.

Several times per month, special needs students at the school take the trip across the street to Don and Ruth Driggers’ Vincent Gardens to hone their horticulture skills by mixing soil, planting bulbs and growing herbs from seeds.

Through the HOPE project, which stands for Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment, the kids grow basil, rosemary, oregano, cilantro and parsley. When the herbs are mature, Taziki’s owner Keith Richards pays the students market price for the plants, which are used as ingredients in local Taziki’s restaurants.

We applaud Shelby County Schools and Taziki’s for partnering to offer this program, which helps to develop real-world skills that will benefit the students for years to come. HOPE currently is only offered at Vincent Middle/High School as a pilot program, but the project’s organizers are making plans to eventually expand HOPE to all Shelby County schools.

During an interview with Shelby County Reporter Staff Writer Ginny Cooper last week, VMHS teacher Jennifer Moon said HOPE showcases the special needs students’ strengths, and shows local employers what the kids are capable of.

The program also teaches the students money management skills, as all money earned through HOPE is placed into a school account, and is used to purchase items the students want. So far, the program has allowed the VMHS special needs department to purchase iPads and fund proposed future visits to a local trampoline park and other field trips, Moon said.

It’s always good to see local business supporting and partnering with our schools, especially on such a practical and real-world level. We hope we have the opportunity to write many similar stories in the future.

The editorial is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.