When students and staff at the Rockdale Head Start Center on Scott Street left for the weekend on Friday, the back yard was as it had always been - a barren plot of land next to a playground they couldn't use. When they returned on Monday, however, the play equipment had been scrubbed, the fence fixed and the once empty plot was transformed into the center's new learning garden complete with two butterfly gardens, raised beds, planters and benches - all courtesy of Leadership Rockdale's Class of 2015.
"The children, families, and staff absolutely love the garden. They couldn't stop talking about all of the wonderful veggies they saw and the flowers they saw in the tires," Center Director Morgan Birch said. "Not only were they excited to see the beautiful garden, they were able to take pictures, read stories, lounge in the sitting areas, and water the garden."
The garden is the first ever Legacy Project, a community service project each Leadership Rockdale class moving forward will be required to complete. The initiative is an opportunity for the class to identify a long-term sustainable project to benefit a deserving organization in the City of Conyers or Rockdale County, thus leaving a legacy in the community. At the start of the 2015 session, the class of 32 leaders from across the county was charged with choosing a project, raising funds and completing the project on April 18.
Led by project chair Jason Korzan, the class chose the Rockdale Head Start Center in February as the recipient of the first project and set to work garnering community support for the initiative.
"What better place to begin a legacy than with children?" Korzan said. "Rockdale Head Start serves a lot of families in our community and our project helps to further their reach. This project not only touches the children in the program, but also their families."
A part of the Partnership for Community Action, the Rockdale Head Start Center is a comprehensive child development program that strives to provide high-quality, standards-based, literacy-rich preschool experiences. The program promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families and supports the mental, social, and emotional development of children from 3 to 5 years old."
"In addition to education services, our program provides children and their families with health, nutrition, social, and other services. Rockdale Head Start Center services are responsive to each child and family's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage," Birch said. Our program builds relationships with families that support positive parent-child relationships, family well-being, and connections to peers and community."
In her application, Birch asked for planter boxes, mulch, and seeds for vegetables and flowers for the more than 100 students the center serves. With the help of donated services and supplies, and monetary donations, Korzan and the rest of the class decided to complete much more.
"We were able to garner strong support from the community which enabled us to do more than Morgan originally asked for," Korzan said. "We constructed and installed four raised beds complete with an array of vegetables; created planters made from tires; created two butterfly gardens with seating areas and an outdoor classroom; and fixed the fence and cleaned the playground equipment. We are proud of what we were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. We actually wish we could've done more."
To create an even larger legacy, the class also developed the Rockdale Wish List, a running list of smaller projects that can be completed by individuals, groups or organizations looking to make an impact in Conyers.
"The Rockdale Wish List is an opportunity for each of us in the community to leave a legacy of our own," said Tisa Smart Washington, who, along with Macrae Brennan-Fuller chaired the project's PR committee. "The website connects people with small scale service projects right here in our community."
The wish list is online at www.rockdalewishlist.squarespace.com. Wish list items can be granted on the website and organizations can submit projects to be included on the list by emailing a description of the project, photos and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rockdale Head Start Center is hopeful the wish granted to them by Leadership Rockdale will encourage other community organizations to submit projects to the list and garner support from the community to create their own sustainable legacy.
"The Leadership Rockdale Class of 2015 has absolutely been a blessing to our program. This project has begun to increase students' knowledge and skills in growing vegetables from seeds; help our students make the connection between the foods they grow and their choices in family-style dining meals; and instill in them a greater appreciation for gardening. Rockdale Head Start Center will definitely benefit from having this new addition to our program," Birch said.
Legacy Project 2015 Supporters
• Snapping Shoals EMC
• Evans Tool & Die
• Insurance Associates Atlanta
• Constance Abbott
• Antoinette Alvarado
• Dee Barnes
• Lynn Killman
• Tisa Smart Washington
• Bob Bell
• Macrae Brennan-Fuller
• Peggy Carruth
• Timothy Hogg
• Caroline St. John
• Shawna Woodruff
• Karen Alcock
• Cheryl Board
• Debbie Hillman
• Chris Lee
• Kevin Courchaine
• Jim Killman
• Brad Williams
• Asurety Construction Services
• Conyers Fence Company