The University of Mississippi Garden Club has created a mentorship program that helps kids at the Boys & Girls Club upkeep their very own gardens.
Last year, the Boys & Girls Club started sending kids to the University of Mississippi garden, located behind the Residential College, to help plant crops and prepare the garden for winter.
This semester, the Boys & Girls Club started their own garden so more kids could get involved and get active.
“The kids love the thought of being outside and doing fun activities,” Denae Bradford, coordinator of the UM Garden Club, said.
When Bradford joined the sustainability team in August 2016, she said her goals were to expand the garden club and develop a more active program. It was her idea to start sending members of the garden club over to help the kids learn more about gardening and its benefits.
“We have lesson plans that we create every week so that the kids have some structure and can learn,” she said. “We assign a student to about five children there at the Boys & Girls Club, and they are responsible for teaching those children whatever the lesson is for that day.”
The UM Garden Club meets every Monday afternoon to create 30-minute lessons that they will repeat two to four times in rounds of 15 to 20 kids.
Zach Wehemeyer, FoodCorps’ ambassador at the Boys & Girls Club, said the UM Garden Club has been beneficial to the kids and UM students. He said the garden club allows the Boys & Girls Club to reach more kids without having to sacrifice individualized attention.
“The garden club members simultaneously gain real experience that impacts their immediate community, and [this] also allows them an outlet to share their personal passions with the kids,” he said. “Through this symbiotic relationship, the greater sense of community here in Oxford is strengthened.”
Kendall McDonald, a UM sustainability fellow, said the club’s biggest problems have been raising awareness and getting more volunteers to participate. She said when the garden club was first organized, member participation was challenging because interest was low.
The Office of Sustainability uses social media interns to attract volunteers and promote all things related to sustainability.
Christopher Neal, marketing and communications intern for the Office of Sustainability, said using multiple platforms helps the community know what events or programs are happening.
“Different social platforms attract different people,” he said. “Once you know your target audience, promotion becomes easier and the volunteer rate or people that show up to an event skyrocket because more people knew about it.”
Now that the club is developing, members have set a new goal for themselves to bring further attention to what their new mentorship program is about.
“We are setting out to pair the knowledge of healthy eating with the tools to do so and the example of practicing what we preach consistently, in a way that both inspires and empowers a generation of thoughtful healthy food advocates,” Wehemeyer said.