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Volunteers from Alaska Airlines, Portland Timbers and I Have a Dream Oregon help spruce up H.B. Lee Middle School's community garden for fall

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Children plant kale in raised beds at H.B. Lee Middle School, part of a project focused on youth and the environment. H.B. Lee is one of two middle schools in the Reynolds School District that was adopted as one of the nations first Dreamer schools.

Volunteers poured some TLC into H.B. Lee Middle School’s community garden for two hours Wednesday afternoon.

Weeding, pruning and planting, the group prepared 300 square feet of planting space for fall harvest.

“School and park beautification are a big part of what we do with service learning,” said Katie Dvorsky, an AmeriCorps member and community involvement specialist contracted through Metropolitan Family Service with the SUN program. “We want to instill a sense of pride in the community and school.”

Drawing volunteers from Alaska Airlines, Portland Timbers and “I Have a Dream” Oregon, the garden spruce-up was held as part of the Timbers’ Stand Together Week Aug. 4-10.

Dvorsky, who began working with H.B. Lee in January and will continue through December, said the garden will serve as a tool for students to learn not only about gardening, but to study nutrition and healthy living.

“Being able to grow our own food will really help empower kids to figure out how to do this at home,” she said.

Along with serving the school community, H.B. Lee hopes to make the garden available to community members.

Located in the Rockwood neighborhood, H.B. Lee is one of two middle schools in the Reynolds School District that was adopted as part of the nation’s first “Dreamer School” program.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Dreamer student Aliza Young, right, came to volunteer from Jefferson High School.

Through “I Have a Dream” Oregon, Dreamer students from low-income communities are supported into high school and beyond, with the goal of helping them pursue post-secondary education and economic independence in adulthood.

Aliza Young, an incoming freshman and Dreamer student at Jefferson High School in Portland, came out to support fellow Dreamer students and said it was fun to connect with another group of students she doesn’t get to see.

The school garden is intended to match science curriculum with hands-on learning. Already, incoming H.B. Lee sixth-graders were planting kale, squash, lettuce and other winter crops Wednesday.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Portland Timbers defender David Horst and Timber Joey, a.k.a. Joey Webber, joined volunteers from Alaska Airlines, school officials and students for a garden volunteer party at H.B. Lee Middle School on Wednesday, Aug. 7.

“I think these kids are better gardeners than me,” joked David Horst, a defender for the Portland Timbers. “I wish I would have had a garden like this in class when I was in school. It’s a good way to teach kids outdoor skills and have fun outside.”

Horst and the soccer team’s mascot, Timber Joey (Joey Webber), spent the afternoon gardening at the school and signing a number of autographs for students.

“We receive so much support from the community both in Portland and on the east and west side,” Webber said. “This is a chance to get out and give back to the community — to beautify a place we all love.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Bill Leaptrott is a Reynolds School District groundskeeper who maintains 20 facilities. WIth a passion for horticulture, he hopes to help schools like H.B. Lee expand and enhance their gardens.

Also helping Wednesday were Paz Ramos, assistant principal, and Bill Leaptrott, a groundskeeper for the Reynolds School District who has maintained 20 district facilities the past six years.

Leaptrott noted the garden was one of three in the district, including Glenfair and Alder Elementary schools. He wants to see horticulture back in schools and views the industry as a huge job creator.

“This is my true love — horticulture,” Leaptrott said. “I love seeing the kids learning gardening. I’d like to see these gardens be prototypes for a huge horticultural awakening in the schools.

“I hope they fully incorporate the gardens into the curriculum of the schools. I’d like to see them fully functional with irrigation systems and indoor propagation with lights.”

Leaptrott also dreams of someday adding pumpkin patches for students.

To learn more, visit portlandtimbers.com/standtogetherweek and dreamoregon.org.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - DeeDee Butler, from left, Bryan Cox and Shannon Massey, all from Alaska Airlines, volunteered at H.B. Middle School on Wednesday to improve and replant the school garden.

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