Vinson honored for decade of work with H.O.P.E. Project

Published 3:43 pm Monday, August 1, 2022

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By EMILY SPARACINO | Staff Writer 

COLUMBIANA – The work of a recently retired Shelby County Schools employee will continue to grow through a program she helped to establish nearly a decade ago.

Cindy Vinson, who worked for the district as a paraeducator and job coach for 25 years, received a district-wide award for co-founding the H.O.P.E. Project, a program aimed at providing real-world job skills for students with special needs.

“That project has given our students with disabilities an opportunity to add relevant experiences to their learning,” SCS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks said as he presented Vinson with a Journey Shaper Award at the Shelby County Board of Education meeting on Thursday, July 28. “The H.O.P.E. Project has enriched the lives of many students by providing opportunities for them to participate in meaningful work.”

H.O.P.E., which stands for Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment, started at Vincent Middle High School in 2012.

As Vinson’s students learned how to plant, grow and harvest a variety of herbs, a partnership with Taziki’s Mediterranean Café owner Keith Richards formed, and Richards began purchasing herbs from the H.O.P.E. program to use in his restaurants.

“Students in the program are taught transferable life skills for work and home,” Brooks said. “The entire process includes planting the seeds and using the herbs in a recipe. The students in the program learn to use math, agriculture and science skills while providing an income for their programs.”

The H.O.P.E. program is still thriving and even gained a branch earlier this summer, when Shelby County High School created an instructional garden patterned after Vincent’s garden.

“This has been a great project that Cindy has started for us, and this project in my opinion is very worthy of the prestigious award of Journey Shaper Award,” Brooks said. “I want to personally thank you for all that you’ve done. You truly represent what we want, and that is to be a model of excellence.”