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Reinvestment act pays students to renovate Chana High garden

$21,500 grant covered fencing, greenhouse update, trail clearing
By: Julie Eng, Journal Correspondent
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Over the past couple of months, several Chana High School students were given an outdoor alternative to the typical summer job. Chana was awarded a $21,500 grant as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which the school’s special education program used to refurbish a garden, and to hire students to do it. Sharon Williams of the Golden Sierra Job Training Agency was the liaison between the grant and the Placer Union High School District. She explained that in order to qualify for employment paid by the grant, students had to have a low-income, disability, or other circumstances that might make it difficult for them to find a job. The students were paid minimum wage and supervised by Chana High teachers in rebuilding a greenhouse, re-fencing the garden, and clearing a trail to a picnic area and volleyball court. Don Joye, project organizer and garden class teacher, was one of the several Chana teachers who devoted their time this summer to working with the students. He looks forward to continuing the progress made over the summer with the agriculture program into the school year, and plans to add goats and lambs to their farm area. Joye said that hopefully the students will be able to expand their agricultural education to include working with the animals and learning about their care and use. Chana is one of a few Auburn-area schools that have student gardens and agriculture classes to educate students about farming and growing their own food. Those who farm for a living in Placer County support agricultural education in schools. “School gardens and school farms are an excellent way for students to learn about where their food comes from, to and gain some respect for local farmers,” said Karen Killebrew, president of PlacerGrown, when asked about the project. Of the five students who stuck it out for the entire six weeks, Samual Perry and Brent Freeman will be returning to Chana in the fall to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Among them is the beach volleyball court, which teacher Tad Eichman and the students stumbled across while clearing the area of debris. Eichman, who has worked at the school for 11 years, said he had no idea the court was there, but it has made a great addition to the picnic area. The students also benefited in that the project gave them an opportunity to earn some money this summer. “There were students there that have never had anything new, and listening to them get their paychecks and get excited about buying a new pair of shoes… it was really exciting seeing that, and sharing their excitement. Some of these kids are really hurting. That was the highlight for me,” said Jeff Moore, special education teacher. Teachers said that the students seemed to take pride in their work, and enjoyed working outdoors. “It was a great thing for the students to be involved in,” Eichman said. “They really enjoyed being outside, and working in the garden reached the students in ways school sometimes can’t.” Teachers involved in the project said Joye was a key player in making the project successful. “It really touched the students to make that connection, to have an inspiration … a lot of the boys looked up to Don,” said Randi Sindt, special education teacher. Joye said that seeing the program he had been advocating for years receive funding and have an impact on his students was extremely gratifying. He and the other teachers involved all were very proud of the final five students, Greg Cecil, Adam Donaldson, Zach Boorinakis, Samual Perry and Brent Freeman, and how hard they worked to complete the project, which Eichman said rejuvenated the entire agricultural education program. “When school starts again in August, I think the students will be pleased and surprised with what we’ve started,” Eichman said.