Spotlight on Volunteers

Volunteer Gardening Photo
Street School Garden Club - Penny Rothrock and Andrea Nugent

Just off Buxton Street in the Winston-Salem Street School back parking lot is an urban oasis, a space where vibrant vegetables, aromatic herbs, and fragrant flowers bloom. Nestled in an unlikely spot between the basketball goal and a waste management receptacle, an inviting space sprung up in the early spring of 2019thanks to two of the school’s finest volunteers who had a vision of a community garden and a club to benefit the students at theStreet School.

The idea was planted when Penny Rothrock and Andrea Nugentmade a Christmas donation to the school in 2018 through their local garden club, The Club of Twenty Gardens. “We knew school gardens could come in all shapes and sizes, but we also knew we wanted the space to provide healthy foods and fresh flowers, a place where there was always something to touch, taste, smell, and hear,” Penny explained.

When Penny and Andrea approached Executive Director MikeFoster with the idea, he knew immediately how to make it happen. Mike connected with the BB&T (now Truist) Lighthouse Project and the real work began. Using Andrea’s creative design, members of the Lighthouse community outreach team crafted two sturdy outdoor raised garden beds with benches where students could relax and learn. The Street School garden club, “The Plant Heads,”named by club member Mckenzie Plant, blossomed from there.

garden club

According to Penny, “We wanted the space to provide nutritious foods and beautiful flowers to share and be an educational tool for gardening with hands-on learning experiences to study plant growth, insects, weather, and soil composition.” Other community volunteers, particularly staff from the Community Gardens Program through the NC Cooperative Extension Program, soon joined the project and contributed to the success of the garden club. In no time the little garden was providing harvests for The Plant Heads to use for culinary sessions in the school kitchen, providing healthy meals for students and staff, including fresh soups, salads, tacos, and pizza.

Penny and Andrea hoped that students, even those not involved in the club, would learn the nutritional value of fresh garden vegetables as well as the endless benefits of a natural space.

"When Penny and I began this project, we wanted to see it through so that not only could the first class experience the joy of gardening, but future students would also learn the value of a garden."

Several students have gone on to create garden spaces at their own homes. Club member Nileyah said, “I enjoy learning about plants, making art, and cooking with them too. I’ve even started growing cucumbers in an indoor garden at my house.”

The garden spot serves all students, providing an outdoor space for science classes as well as a spot removed from the traditional classroom where students can relax, read, write, and learn. In the back parking lot of the Street School, Penny and Andrea’s hope has bloomed. They have helped create a place where Street School students are taking away the benefits of gardening and are learning life-long skills of respect, responsibility, teamwork, and ownership. Penny and Andrea and other dedicated friends of the school have carved out a small piece of paradise in the school parking lot.