100 PERCENT ORGANIC: Instructional Innovation Grants initiative at SPC
100 Percent Organic: with $10,000 Grant and tons of caring, St. Philip's College students, faculty have helped San Antonio go green and healthy by operating 100 percent organic East Side Community Garden.
With $10,000 in funding assistance from an Alamo Colleges District Foundation innovation grant, 30 St. Philip's College nutrition students lead by example to help San Antonians go healthier and greener while they share knowledge as guests in the first working 100 percent organic community garden on San Antonio’s East Side.
The 6,500 square-foot East Side Community Garden with multiple organic garden plots where gardeners can take organic produce home for meals was initiated by a group of seniors who are assisted by volunteers and neighbors, explained Dr. Solomon Nfor, college biotechnology program coordinator and organizer for the classroom series known as Jessica's Project http://alamo.edu/spc/jessicasproject/. In addition to increasing food resources for local seniors on fixed incomes in the food desert of East Side San Antonio, the college has found opportunities to give back by helping to improve the nutritional value of the up-and-coming organic garden located between residences at 1715 N. Center St.
The students recently planted vegetables that will be ready to harvest in spring. The labor on Dec. 1---final activity for 2017---consists of learning, mulching and cleaning with the assistance of master gardeners. Mary Morgan, the college's master gardener, educated the students on what and why they are growing organic. As the students mulch and maintain the garden that has been prepared for vegetables that will be harvested in spring, they’ll share information from Mary Morgan on how anyone can do what they are doing.
Several years in the making, the project http://alamo.edu/spc/jessicasproject/ is sustained in part through funding by Alamo Colleges District in its commitment to champion student success, known as an Instructional Innovation Grants initiative, Nfor explained. The Alamo College's Foundation is investing up to $10,000 at the college for two years to reinforce and deepen a pervasive culture of innovation throughout the district. One of the Year Two (2017-2018 academic year) projects funded is Jessica’s Project: Teaching Using Civic Engagement Model, which includes the organic garden.
Goals of the grant include educating, informing and advising St. Philip’s College students and Eastside Promise Zone community members on best practice sustainable health and wellness initiatives.
“A lot has been done since the grant was awarded,” said Nfor. “To address these issues, the proposal for this grant had specific attainable goals which would not have been possible without the funding received. We were able to purchase organic insect repellents, promotional items, awards for guest speakers, tablets, garden tools, and office/workshop supplies needed for the workshops to be provided by Jessica’s Project to faculty members in all three divisions at the college. We sponsored and trained faculty members from our Arts and Sciences Division on ways to incorporate and redesign syllabi to embrace a civic engagement model. This workshop had teachers from Alamo Heights High school in attendance. During our Jessica’s Project symposium on traumatic brain injury, we brought together nearly 400 participants from the community, the student body, and real-life patients with whom the students collaborated. Because of the grant awarded, we recruited a record number of keynote speakers on the subject, and presented them with awards.”
“Even more importantly, the grant made it possible to start the Jessica’s Project Leadership Scholar Program where we trained six students as leaders in civic engagement,” said Nfor. “These students were given training materials and shadowed me throughout the semesters in planning meetings, workshops and post workshop reflections. They were trained to lead at events such as garden workdays, symposiums, and how to organize an event beforehand, from proper workshop etiquette to recruiting patients and guest speakers,” Nfor said.
The faculty innovation grant projects were designed and implemented by such faculty members as Dr. Nfor, and co-principal investigators Dr. Saint Hubert Marie-Michelle, Kathryn White, Dr. Stacie Koonhow, Dianna Garza, Ronald Viola, and Dr. Carmen Nava-Fischer.
“These faculty members received training on civic engagement, had complete buy-in on its impact on learning to the college’s students, and sacrificed so much of their time to the success of Jessica’s Project,” said Nfor. “As a result of the grant, the project has become more visible and impactful on our campuses. It has gone from one faculty member and 32 students to a college committee with over 18 active faculty and staff members with two area high schools participating,” said Nfor.
CAPTION: Archival images of St. Philip's College students giving back at the East Side Community Garden are a reminder that the final day of garden work for 2017 in the first working 100 percent organic community garden on San Antonio’s East Side is Dec. 1. (SPC images)
About Jessica’s Project: Jessica's Project http://alamo.edu/spc/jessicasproject/ is an innovative six-year-old series of annual classroom events that have engaged hundreds of St. Philip's College nutrition, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, biology, and health sciences students with the community to address a health issue through an evidence-based program. Students learn about the impact of nutrition on health as they raise awareness on campus and in their community. Past projects have addressed spina bifida, cardiovascular health, celiac disease, gastroparesis, Crohn's disease and unplanned pregnancy prevention.