- Michael D. Clark Staff Writer
You can’t grow a garden until you build a garden.
That’s just one of the many lessons Lakota teens are learning as the popular Edge Teen Center took its after-school activities outside to create the center’s first student-run garden.
The first-ever garden at the Liberty Twp. youth center — located adjacent to the Lakota East High School — will produce vegetables next spring that will be used in cooking classes.
Annie Droege, director of the Edge Teen Center, said the project will become a new staple of the teen facility, where an average after-school session has more than a 100 area students relax on couches, study their homework at tables, play games or socialize as many of them wait for their parents to come give them a ride home.
“We felt the garden would be a great focal point for the community service portion of the center,” said Droege, as she paused from watching teens build the wooden, elevated garden.
“We wanted a project the students could get behind and build community and what better way than to build a community garden here right next to our facility,” she said.
“We hope to plant vegetables, herbs and any fruit we can grow so we can start doing healthy cooking classes and teach students basic ways of gardening. It’s a really good teaching method for them to learn they can take from the garden to the dinner table,” said Droege.
The Edge Center is one of the few dedicated teen facilities in Butler County.
Teens who don’t work jobs after school often lack a place to gather in a constructive fashion.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based Afterschool Alliance, communities across the United States see more than 11.3 million children without supervision between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m.
The project costs about $500 so far and Mabry Lawn Care is serving as the project director. Funding comes from the Butler County United Way, which is also offering adult volunteers. The YWCA is providing volunteers to help the students build a garden scarecrow.
Lakota East sophomore Abilene Keating paused from helping dig out the garden and said, “I’m really excited about the spring.”
“It’ll be good to have all these vegetables and fruits. I love to cook so being able to do that with fresh food will be great,” said Keating.
Teens who participate in the gardening, maintenance and growing will also earn school community service hours.