Shelby County High School students expanding HOPE Project

FROM STAFF REPORTS

COLUMBIANA–Students at Shelby County High School are expanding an entrepreneurial idea first started at Vincent Middle High School to supply fresh herbs to Taziki’s restaurants.

The HOPE (Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment) project was the idea of Shelby County Jobs Coach Cindy Vinson and Taziki’s owner, Keith Richards.  Special education students at Vincent Middle High School began growing and selling herbs such as basil, cilantro, rosemary and oregano to the restaurant chain last year.  The students plant the herbs, harvest them, weigh them and then bag them up for delivery to the restaurant.  The venture provides paid employment for the special needs students.

Special education and AgriScience/Future Farmers of America students at Shelby County High School plan to adopt the idea at their school this year. They have built raised garden beds next door to the Shelby County School’s Central Office building. The students are now hard at work filling each bed with topsoil so they can begin to plant.

The garden beds have each been equipped with their own watering system thanks to the hard work of the students. According to AgriScience teacher Dustin Cleckler, the students laid PVC pipe and did the plumbing work to provide each bed with a water faucet.  The only thing the students did not do themselves was connect the pipe directly to the water main, which had to be done by county employees.

Special Education teacher Marisol Walker said she is proud of the collaboration between students to work on a project that is providing both groups with valuable skills and knowledge.

“Having the garden within walking distance to the school is also a great opportunity for my students,” said Walker.  “It is providing them the same opportunities they would have gotten by going to the greenhouse at the Linda Nolen Learning Center, but now they don’t need to be bused over to Linda Nolen.”

Cleckler said in addition to herbs for the HOPE project, the garden will also be planted with some fall vegetables, such as spinach and kale.  The vegetables, along with some of the herbs, will be shared with the school lunchroom and members of the community who are in need.