Remember last year we had a freak snowstorm that reduced our Martin Luther King Day volunteers down to three people, including myself, but we still managed to put up bat boxes and celebrate the MLK Day “A Day On not a Day Off!”? Well this year we had great weather and an even greater project. The project idea was set by Mrs. Norma, the Outdoor Activity Center (OAC) facilities manager for the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA). She showed us a standing raised bed designed for seniors who may otherwise have trouble bending down to ground-level raised beds. She wanted a second one. That was it, we were left with the task of finding the best way to replicate it.

Our morning crew went to work on taking measurements and engaging the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math required to get this project done in a day. We purchased the supplies during the lunch break and completed the task with the afternoon crew. Both crews were a nice blend of students, parents, and teachers from our Education and Engagement work over the past 21 months.

We were excited to have the George family come out and help us kick off the day! Jaden attended our virtual Youth Summit in 2021. He attends Druid Hills High School in Atlanta. Jaden’s mom, Mrs. George, was proudly volunteering next to her family. Ariana (his sister) is a student at the Tapestry Charter School, a National Wildlife Federation Eco-School 2022 Bronze Flag Award winner, whose mission is to educate both neurotypical students and those on the autism spectrum. Philmore George, their father, is a Teacher at the Fernbank Elementary School in Dekalb County.

Bryce Barclay is a student at South Gwinnett High School, he was very active in our Earth Tomorrow Summer Institutes (ETSI) 2021-22. Bryce and his brother BJ (ETSI Alumni 2016) built an electric mountain bike from scratch (they must have engineering in their blood!). Bryce volunteered the whole day to see the project through completion. The afternoon crew dove right in and picked up where the morning crew left off.

Dung Tran is a senior at Morrow High School, where he serves as the Vice President for his Earth Tomorrow Club. Rachel Onile is also a member of the Earth Tomorrow Club. Elijah Fulton and Bryce Barclay are old friends from middle school and have stayed connected and attended many of the Earth Tomorrow programs and events. Elijah attends the Dekalb School of the Arts. He showed great initiative on the afternoon crew, as he took the leadership role of a “chief engineer,” cutting most of the parts for the project.

Bryce acted as the foreman, remaining through both volunteer shifts, he helped organize everyone and the parts to complete the project. Mrs. Irene Fulton, Elijah’s mom, is a teacher at The Globe Academy Public Charter School, another one of NWF’s 2022 Bronze Flag award-winning Eco-Schools. Mrs. Fulton dove right in to help get this project through to completion! She even brought her other three children along with her, it was a real family affair.

  • Left to Right: Dung Tran, Bryce Barclay, Elijah Fulton, Rachel Onile.

We all stayed an hour after the official end of the service project day to complete the standing raised beds. Although we didn’t have a blueprint for this project with clear drafted plans, measurements, and supplies—instead we had the right mix of service volunteers. We brought together people whom we’d honed relationships with these past 21 months through our Eco Schools and Earth Tomorrow programs. We joined with our long-term partners WAWA at the OAC (whom I go back with 20+ years).

The results were our students got to use the leadership skills we work on through the ETSI. The parents/teachers were priceless. We see them here on their off day but really doing what they do every day to make their kids and ours the type of citizens we can all be proud of. MLK Day is always a good opportunity to experience what Dr. King meant in his quote “everybody can be great because everyone can serve…”

We are honored to help our student leaders as they emerge into great young men and women.