A Strong Commitment to Community Engagement
The Community Foundation’s successful partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation began with the formation of the Better Together Commission, which undertook an 18-month study of Jackson Public Schools and reported recommended changes. That partnership continues with Together We Rise, an outgrowth of the Better Together recommendations, designed to support the improvement efforts of Jackson Public Schools.
One such effort can be found at the Blackburn Middle School Learning Garden and Outdoor Classroom. Created to provide curriculum support for Blackburn Middle School, it provides hands-on learning opportunities with a focus on nutrition, healthy lifestyles, and environmental sustainability, as well as science and math.
Because of the garden’s success, the Better Together Commission through the Community Foundation provided a $2,500 grant to help support the project and pay for a gardener to teach the students how to plant a crop and harvest vegetables.
Last fall Blackburn students planted collard greens, mustard greens, and other seasonal vegetables. The greens grew faster and larger than expected so the students decided to host a “Greens Cookout and Tasting Competition”.
In the spring the students planted seasonal vegetables such as squash and cucumbers. With a successful harvest, they hosted their first Farmers Market with help from Jackson State University and sold out their entire stock of garden produce in just 45 minutes, collecting hundreds of dollars to be reinvested back into the garden.
Mississippi State Rep. Alyce Clarke was one of the first customers. “This event shows what can be done if we work together,” Clarke said. “Our children have been working on this for some time, and I think they’re all are quite satisfied. They learned how to grow vegetables, prepare them and work together in the community.”
Belon Jones, Blackburn science teacher, described the successful event as a way to allow students to “enjoy the fruits of their labor” and learn about entrepreneurship. She said, “after successfully hosting the collard greens cookout in December and now having our Farmers Market to connect with the community, our students are learning about profits, gains and losses through our entrepreneurship class.”
Although the spring semester is now over, the students attending Blackburn’s summer school session will continue to maintain the garden with support from JSU.