Garden is Pride of Noble Neighborhood
Aug. 29, 2019 -- A large empty lot in the Noble neighborhood of Cleveland Heights where a house once stood now filled with nothing but tall grass and weeds. Three district after-school programs coming to an end with the start of summer break. And an idea.
It was Stephen Walker of Heights High’s New Heights credit recovery program and Jerod Johnson of the middle school’s Roxboro Connects to the Community program who had that idea. But it took many people across the district and the city to make it a reality.
The two programs partnered with an additional after-school program, Noble STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math) to host a two-week summer camp with the goal of creating a community garden on Delmore Road in Cleveland Heights.
According to Johnson, the camp was a great way to keep the students, who ranged from kindergartners to seniors, engaged over the summer months and the garden allowed them to use their skills, content knowledge, and creativity to build something with lasting impact. They first went on a field trip to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens to gather ideas, then studied everything from types of soil to the proper placement of vegetables, eventually helping to build raised boxes for the beds and planting a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Students’ families were invited to participate as well, especially the Nepalese parents of the Noble STREAM program who live within walking distance of the garden. “They were so close and yet so far away,” said Johnson, of the cultural gap between the families and the schools. “This was a great way for them to feel included in the community.”
In addition to the three 21st Century Grant-funded programs and their leaders Meghan McMahon, Walker, Johnson, Meghan Kennedy and Tiffany Rowan, the garden’s success depended on the kindness of neighbors. An across-the-street neighbor brought garbage cans full of hose water so the students could water their new seeds. Then, as luck would have it, they discovered that Boulevard paraprofessional Danialle Benham lived right behind the garden. She was eager to help and allowed the group to use both her electricity and her outdoor water.
“We truly could not have done this without so much support from so many people,” said Johnson.
Several district alumni and staff members, including high school counselor Mike Murray, City of Cleveland Heights staff members Susanna Niermann-O’Neil, Joe McRae and Andre Spencer and Noble Neighbors were all instrumental in helping this garden grow. And grow it did. Because of the combination of a wet early summer and a hot and sunny later summer, the group has had to harvest the vegetables twice already. Johnson said they are handing out bags of cucumbers, kale eggplants, and tomatoes to anyone who comes by. The students also, literally, enjoyed the fruits of their labors, trying a new vegetable every day of camp. They learned the gardeners’ truism: everything tastes better when you grow it yourself.
Meghan McMahon, who oversees the 21st Century grant programs, said, “This was really an example of a lot of people coming together to make something wonderful happen.” She also acknowledged Sue Pardee’s role in writing the grants that fund the three after-school programs in her role as Supervisor of Federal Programs and Grants.
The garden is still being cared for by Johnson and Walker and they’re hoping for neighborhood volunteers to take it over. They are also hoping to acquire some patio furniture for the deck they’ve built in the back of the property and a sign honoring the students’ hard work. If readers are able to help with either, please reach out to Meghan McMahon at [email protected]