H.O.P.E. Garden true to its name

By SASHA JOHNS / Community Columnist

Since 2012, the H.O.P.E. Garden has become an established program that has done exactly what its name implies—it gives hope.

Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment was the brainchild of Taziki’s founder Keith Richards. His idea was to employ the special needs students of Vincent High School through the herbs they were already growing, by making them a food supplier for his local chain of restaurants. And it worked very well—so well, in fact, that in October 2014, Shelby County High School took the idea a step further by bringing their special needs Working Wildcat students and their FFA program into a collaboration to recreate the same program.

In the last five years, H.O.P.E. has gone on to expand to six high schools across Shelby County. Since then, not only have these students turned a profit each year, they’ve participated in farmer’s markets, county fair competitions, and provided their schoolmates with a farm-to-table experience all while learning skills they can take into the world beyond high school. The program teaches them not only how to grow and care for plants, but also how to run a cottage business in the field of gardening. They plan, weigh and invoice their product for their consumer, and become conscious of what it takes to get a quality product to market.

 

H.O.P.E. has been so successful at SCHS that Working Wildcats teacher Marisol Lilly is ready to expand the project even further. Lilly’s students have worked in their current raised garden beds for five years now, and the wear and tear are bringing them to the point where it’s time to think about replacing them. After the recent demolition of a structure adjacent to the school property, the Working Wildcats and FFA students have big plans to expand their school’s herb success into a much larger and more landscaped garden that will also serve as an instructional model for the entire program.

“The plans we have for this new garden will not only be a great educational resource for us, but it will be an absolutely beautiful addition to the school as well as the community,” Lilly said.

 

With the land cleared, and now being the offseason, the focus has turned to fundraising in order to make sure the project is set to go in 2021. The SCHS Wildcats are actively looking for sponsors to help them realize their goals of expanding. In addition to sponsors, the small, school-based business is also planning sales and other fundraising events to meet the need.

If you would like to sponsor the Working Wildcats H.O.P.E. Instructional Garden, you can reach out to Marisol Lilly at mlilly@shelbyed.org. Donations can also be made to Shelby County High School, marked Hope Garden in the memo, and sent to SCHS at Attention: Instructional Garden, 101 Washington Street, Columbiana, AL  35051.