By Pablo J. Sáinz
When Otay Elementary School teacher Richard Sanchez’ students saw that the community garden was going down the hill, they decided it was time for action.
The students and Sanchez created the Organic Hispanic Garden Club and devoted many hours of their time along with parents and other community members to revitalize the garden, which had fallen in disrepair throughout the years.
The garden has been renovated and reopened with an outdoor classroom component and greenhouse using recycled materials. On a daily basis, the students make organic compost using the school’s uneaten fruits and vegetable matter.
The students who work the garden model “Traits to be Great” and core values for career and college readiness.
As a community, the garden represents the message of the 50th Anniversary of the “Dream Speech,” and the “Si Se Puede” Movement.
Otay Elementary students, staff, parents, and community members, came together last week to commemorate the school’s community garden at a festival of food and music.
The event, which took place on Thursday, Sept. 5, recognized students for academic achievement and celebrated the accomplishments of the Organic Hispanic Garden Club.
Students at the event were recognized by local city officials, including Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox, as well as Chula Vista Elementary School District leaders.
Latino Activist Karlos Paez of the B-Side Players and Maiz, and DJ Unite (Hugh Knight) of the Tribe of Kings Sound System were on hand to celebrate students’ success on the California Standards Test. The children enjoyed listening to a set of songs created by these local musicians, whose music has social conscience and rhythm.
Chula Vista Elementary School District Superintendent Francisco Escobedo cut the ceremonial ribbon inaugurating Otay Elementary’s Community Garden. School Board President Douglas E. Luffborough, III, Mayor Cheryl Cox, and Principal Rosario Villareal helped share the moment with students and staff.
Otay Elementary has earned a host of education honors through the years, such as National Center for Urban School Transformation ‘Excellence in Education’ and Title I Academic Achievement awards, and recognition as a California Distinguished School and National Blue Ribbon School.
The event was part of the school’s effort to create a safe environment for academic excellence.
“I anticipate continued success for all our students,” Principal Villareal said in a written message for parents published on the school’s website. “I remind you all that achievement is made easier and more attainable with the support of our families. It is my goal to increase parent participation here at Otay. Through parent participation, parents become more aware of how their children are doing academically and socially.”
The principal added that parents, teachers, and staff, are part of the same team, a team that puts the children’s education first.
“Together, as a team, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to,” he said. “Together, as a team, we can help to create an Otay community where children will learn to be the leaders of our future.”
Otay Elementary is part of the Chula Vista Elementary School District, a district whose mission is “to nurture every child’s imagination, intellect, and sense of inquiry. Working collaboratively, we tap a collective intelligence rich with the spirit and creativity necessary for students to become difference makers in our community.”
The Otay Community Garden, along with the recent academic achievements, are proof that Otay Elementary is creating a true Si Se Puede school.