Teacher Lindsay McGinnis, left, and Principal Colleen Byrd pose with the students after Byrd presented them with Patriots jerseys and tickets.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Hoosac Valley juniors Tia Kareh and Kathryn Scholz were recognized for their school community gardening with signed New England Patriots jerseys and tickets to Sunday's game.
Kareh and Scholz, who spend the summer tending the Hoosac Valley Community Garden through a work-study, were in for quite the surprise Friday when Principal Colleen Byrd handed over two signed Devin McCourty jerseys and tickets to Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium against the New York Jets.
"We are so proud of these students, these teachers, and this program," Byrd said. "This is so deserved. The work these two girls did was hands-on and was giving back to the school community."
Teacher Lindsay McGinnis utilized a grant to establish a school gardening and composting program in 2020.
But who takes care of the garden when school is out of session?
Enter Kareh and Scholz, who both contacted McGinnis about the garden.
"They reached out to me, and I knew that they were interested in gardening form their 8th-grade year because their science project was based on agriculture and gardening and things like that," she said. "They stayed in touch with me and wanted to continue this project so I offered them the work-study. It is awesome that they have this interested."
Byrd said she received a message from New England Dairy about its Fuel Good in Your Community Awards that celebrates students making a difference in their communities. So she submitted Kareh and Scholz's names.
"These two girls worked hard all summer and they took care of the gardens watering and everything so I submitted all of this information and they won," Byrd said.
Kareh and Scholz received certificates from the program as well as a $1,000 grant in their name to continue such efforts.
For Kareh and Scholz, they spent the summer doing something they were passionate about.
"We have a big garden at my house, and I really enjoy seeing how we can just start growing things and get produce from it," Scholz said.
"I usually do a garden every year at my house," Kareh said. "It isn't very big, but my dad and I do what we can."
At Hoosac Valley, they continued these efforts and visited the garden to water, weed, and harvest the ten beds.
"We go into the school to grab what we need depending on if we have to water," Kareh said.
Kareh pointed to a spigot near the school and said they often had to connect multiple hoses and drag their line across the parking lot to reach the garden if they couldn't get the job done with the rain collectors.
"There was one time it was pouring rain, and I don't know what was going on," she said. "The hose wasn't connecting."
Scholz added that a lot of it was trial error, and they learned their season is far too short to grow watermelon outdoors. She said it was a good season for beans, but their strawberries didn't do well — but they bought more seeds on their own to try again.
Scholz said she really enjoyed the gardening programs at Hoosac Valley and saw it as a good opportunity to get outside and do something hands-on.
"It is a good opportunity, and we don't usually have classes like this where we can get out actually do something with our hands and see the results," she said.
And the two gardeners saw real results and the produce they grew was actually served up in the cafeteria.
"We walk the halls and a teacher will say 'we saw the huge beans you grew'," Kareh said. "It is a lot of work and a long process but very satisfying to see the end product."
Byrd said students have taken notice of their work and what the gardening program at Hoosac Valley is all about.
"There was a lot of waste, and they were throwing things out but as time goes on, they are recognizing that they need to have a balanced meal and how important it is to not just throw things away," she said.
Both Kareh and Scholz hope that gardening remains in their lives as they look towards their senior year and beyond.
"I am interested in this being a part of my life," Kareh. "I don't know what I want to do but I want it to involve nature, outdoors, education, or the medical field. But this really helps broaden what it could be."
Kareh said they were happy to add to a growing program at Hoosac Valley.
"If you haven't tried this you are really missing out," she said. "It is a great experience and it is good to know this program has a future here. It is nice to be able to start it so others can have the same opportunity."