Well into her college career, Lee’s Summit High School graduate Paige Shoemaker found a way to create a community garden that has become a place of learning and peace for special education students in her former school district.
The William Jewell College senior won a grant from her college for the garden, which was designed to help students understand where food comes from and what is involved in gardening. Her plans came to fruition at the R-7 district’s Miller Park Center, a special-education, day-treatment facility operated by the R-7 district.
During 2017, Shoemaker and other volunteers created five 4-by-12-foot raised beds for vegetables, strawberries and flowers. The project, known as the Wait and Seed School and Community Garden, also includes two peach trees. It’s behind the mobile units that house the G.R.E.A.T. (Gaining Real-life Experience and Training) program.
In her grant proposal, Shoemaker said she would dedicate two years to establishing the garden, which would then be given over to other caretakers. The garden has yielded several crops, including carrots, okra, onions, pumpkins, basil, chives, tomatoes, strawberries and peppers.
The G.R.E.A.T. students will harvest food for the daily lunches they prepare and also sell the flowers at the Lee’s Summit Farmers Market. In addition, the garden will serve as an incentive for Miller Park students, who can go there to relax.
Shoemaker graduated from high school in 2014 and is leaving William Jewell this month with degrees in nonprofit leadership, business administration and applied critical thought and inquiry. She wants to work with nonprofits involved with urban agriculture.
William Jewell recently recognized Shoemaker for her use of the grant.