It began with a few students wanting to improve their school, and it grew -- quite literally -- from there.

Kimberly Charlson, a leadership member at Iron House Elementary, teamed with fellow teacher Michelle McDonough and Principal Michele Gaudinier to forge ahead with a garden for the Oakley school.

The trio organized the planting, arranged for donations and led the events to "revive our school grounds," Charlson said.

Leadership students were assigned to help other students. Jobs included spreading the soil, pulling weeds, digging holes, planting shrubs, flowers and vegetables, watering and even taking photos along the way.

The project was a revamping of areas "that have not survived the brackish soil and the windy elements." The garden in the kinder area is new.

Before the big garden event took place, the leadership group hosted a cleanup to prepare the areas for planting and "revive areas with nice plants but were overshadowed by weeds."

The gardens are "where students and parents utilize it the most. For example, there are now beautiful roses near the cafeteria so that students can enjoy the view as they eat outside," she said.

The improved garden includes boxwood and breath of heaven shrubs, along with roses and lilies. Two trees, donated by Home Depot, will be planted later. And, the kinder garden is filled with vegetables.

While the leadership kids started it all, and will continue to help, Charlson said the project was also opened to the community: "Everyone from teachers and staff to students and their families (were invited.) It became a school event, which included much of the PTA."

Lowe's and Home Depot were big contributors. "(They) donated plants more likely to sustain the conditions of (our) soil. Their expertise was appreciated, and we're thankful."

Donations included gloves, mulch, mulch soil, seeds, plants, vegetables, trees and steppingstones.

Now that the initial planting event is done, the fifth-grade teacher said all "are thrilled to see some of our school grounds looking revived. The campus has more color, freshness and aesthetic qualities that bring smiles to everyone who walks by."

She said it's particularly important to the students. "It means ownership, pride in their school grounds and a sense of community. They enjoyed working together to make their home away from home beautiful."

BIG NIGHT: Deer Valley High ended its school year on a high note by handing out more than $35,000 in scholarships to a bundle of bright students.

The recent event featured a packed house of friends and family and 58 donor participants for the 62 students receiving 81 scholarships.

The winners were: Kyle Achziger, Kiyar Aniwar, Ann Azevedo, Lantz Bigay, Javier Briseno, Wynona Cagas, Angelica Caoile, Julian Carney, Alyssa Coakley, Mackenna Coan, Matthew Coats, Taylor Coover, Wednesday Dahilig, Rene DeAmaral, Rond De Leon, Michael Djaja, Devin Duong, Kierra Ellis, Shelley Foster, Perry Francois Edwards, Cristina Gonzalez, Conner Grant, Shannon Guillory, Sophia Gumas, LeShall Hamlin, Ariane Hamner, Morgan Higgs, Darius Ingram, Ashanti Jones, Beckett Kelly, Zainab Khan, Matthew Kwa, Andrew La, Jade Lawson, Christine Laymon, Marcus Lee, Antonisha Lewis, Cody McDonald, James McKenna, Nicholas Nguyen, Ryley Palmer, Shane Pooler, Alicia Rickli, Jeremy Rotman, Megan Santos, Amy Swanson, Ray Tagle, Yazmin Tenorio, Calvin Thai, Rebecca Tran, Jose Uribe, Kristin Vagenas, Meradith Valencia, Maxemiliano Vargas, Jacob Virtusio, Alvin Vuong, Aalaya Wheeler, Troy Worden, Pei-Hsuan Wu, Maryn Wunderly, Cameron Yee and Christopher Yee.

MOVING ON: The Diablo Vista scholarship foundation, Division 52 of the California Retired Teachers Association, recently awarded $35,000 in scholarships.

Seven students benefitted from the big give, each getting $5,000.

The students chosen completed two years at Diablo Valley College or Los Medanos College, and will move on to a four-year university.

The LMC scholars are: Dayn'l Beeler (math and education at UC Berkeley) and Kelsea Weber (math and education at UC Santa Barbara).

A five-member committee chose the recipients based on the level of academic achievements, community service, leadership, citizenship, and the extent of financial need. At least one award is reserved for an applicant who chooses teaching as a career, and another for a re-entry woman over 25 years old.

Since 1981, the group has given more than 150 scholarships, totaling more than $200,000. Money for the awards comes from donations, memorials and fundraising activities.

All retired educators are invited to join CalRTA, which will hold its next bimonthly luncheon Aug. 7 at Zio Fraedo's in Pleasant Hill. For more information, visit www.div52.calrta.org or call 925-939-5170.

If you have school news to share, contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net. You can also reach Judith Prieve at jprieve@bayareanewsgroup.com