A version of this story originally ran in Around Alhambra.
As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and on a picturesque Saturday last month a village of volunteers gathered with special needs students plant an organic garden.
Learning Independence for Transition is a year-old program of the Alhambra Unified School District’s Adult Transition unit, specifically designed for special needs young aduts ages 18-22 years, who have earned a high school certificate of completion. The LIFT Program is tailored to teach functional living skills, mobility safety, work experience, and community based instruction.
Volunteers and LIFT students planted salad greens, herbs, and Asian and Latino-themed vegetables in four wooden planters constructed by high school students from the Green Construction Academy. Jesse Chang, the director of the faith-based organization Kingdom Causes and an Alhambra Source community contributor, worked with LIFT students to decide what to plant. “We are creating functional beauty here," he said. "Everything will be fully organic and no artificial fertilizers or pesticides will be used.” Other sponsors included the Rotary Club of Alhambra, Vons Grocery Store, Alhambra High School Green Construction Academy, Monterey Park Chinese Baptist Church, and Home Depot.
Transition teacher Kathleen Doyle explained that through the garden project her students were learning vocational and domestic skills. “Taking care of an outdoors area is a job skill that students can transfer to their own lives and gardening at home," she said. "Once we get our garden growing, we’ll bring in the vegetables for cooking and nutrition lessons. And we hope we’ll do so well with this garden that we’ll be able to share with the community.”
For students, the program is helping the transition to an independent adulthood. “It’s not like high school where you stay in the campus," LIFT student Zenia de Jesus, 21, said. "It’s fun; I like it because we go out to the community. We’ve gone to the YMCA, Bun’n Burger, and we volunteer at Super A.” Bun’n Burger and Birdies donated food for today’s event as well.
Rotary President Dr. Raymond Poon raised $3,000 for the garden and also obtained a $3,000 matching grant from the district Rotary office. The actual budget for the garden was approximately $1500 due to generous donations from partners. With the extra funds, Dr. Poon said more community gardens will be planted. “This is just the beginning of many years of service,” he said. Dr. Poon was also very pleased with the community turn out of over 35 people for the event, including 12 volunteers from the San Gabriel Valley New Generation Rotary Club and several members of Alhambra Unified School District, including Patricia Mahony, Director of Secondary Special Education, Dr. Laura Tellez, Assistant Supt. and Donna Perez, Supt.
“What really strikes me about today is that it’s a community raising, working with the LIFT program. It takes a community to make a program work," Perez said. "That’s what I see here.”
For more information, please visit: http://teacher.ausd.us/groups/transitionprogram/