Girls program updates school's greenspace to promote mental health wellness
An underused courtyard has been transformed into a peaceful oasis for students at Martin Luther King Jr. School 9.
The new peace garden is a passion project for members of Sisters II Sisters, a program that provides mentorship, education and social emotional support to sixth-grade girls.
School social worker Jamie Hearn is a Sister II Sisters adviser. She said the girls decided to improve the courtyard after learning about the benefits of green spaces.
“They wanted to rejuvenate the existing butterfly garden that had laid dormant.” said Hearn. “They wanted to create a place where students can come out and do mediation and take breaks and be calm.”
Hearn said the courtyard is also a much safer space for outdoor activities because the school’s playground on North Clinton Avenue is sometimes a dumping ground for used needles.
To bring their vision to life, the students secured a $1,000 grant from the Gandhi Institute and partnered with Broccolo Tree and Lawn Care. The connection was made through Hearns, who reached CEO Laurie Broccolo for gardening tips.
Broccolo began working directly with the girls, educating them on landscaping and entrepreneurship. She even pitched helping the young women plant the butterfly garden. She said she was excited for the opportunity.
“I thought this was a great way to connect with young girls and show them they could be their own bosses and show them that they can have a career,” said Broccolo.
Broccolo said gardening is a skill that improves mental health in some people, and she commends the girls for creating a legacy for other students at their school.
“Even if they don’t go into landscaping as a career they now know how to garden,” Broccolo said.
Tamajah Lenear, 12, helped write the grant that secured the project. She said the garden is an accomplishment and she appreciates the support Sister II Sisters receives.
“It's amazing that people are out here helping us and being a part of what we created all together,” said Lenear.
The new peace garden will serve not only as a place to relax and meditate but also as an outdoor classroom for all students and faculty at School 9.