A seedling of an idea has grown into a tasty project at Pittsburg High School.

The school now sports a sustainable garden, thanks to a grant and some good old-fashioned hard work.

Led by the Pittsburg school district's child nutrition department and hands-on contributions from students and staff, the area is flourishing.

Funded by a generous federal grant, the plan entailed creating a sustainable garden "where students participate in growing food that will be served in the cafeteria," said Matt Belasco, director of Child Nutrition Services. "Students are more apt to eat foods they have participated in producing. That's the tie in for my department."

The 18-bed garden features a variety of goods, including organic heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, melons, winter squash, summer squash, pumpkins, eggplant, peppers and pole beans.

Helping pull the large garden together was Belasco and his team, students from the PHS special ed team, and teachers, including Shamika Alexander, Thomas Arbuckle, Tonnette Briggs, Lora Bryant, Cookie Freeman and Erick Valenzuela. Shawna Anderson (ACCNP horticultural consultant) and Sara Fuentes (sustainability program manager with CIWA, Inc.) also contributed.

In addition to fresh produce, the hope is to "integrate more garden-based curriculum into the classroom. We are working with agencies and partners," Belasco added.


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Planning began last fall, with the garden taking shape throughout the school year. It will be an ongoing project, and will expand as "momentum grows."

Although black and orange are the school's colors, green -- as in eco green -- is big on the campus.

For the past several years, the school has embraced a green movement, making substantial steps to reduce its environmental impact. The organic garden will be pesticide and chemical free.

"We will be composting on site, which will aid in reducing our waste stream," Belasco said. "(Plus), learning to grow fruits and veggies will assist our students in reducing their carbon footprint as they grow and leave the district."

Principal Todd Whitmire said, "Without the many individuals, we could not have gotten this off the ground. Our students and staff have embraced this opportunity to learn how to grow their own food as part of a wider movement that is both green and good (as in good eating)."

STATE OF THE ART EVENT: Elected officials and Comcast recently honored nearly 200 high school students during the recent Education Salute at the State Capitol, where $210,000 and 20 laptop computers were given away.

Representing East County were Brentwood's Ira Emmanuel Rubio of Heritage High and Oakley's Monique Paris of Freedom High.

The celebration of education included surprising two students with $10,000 scholarships, and 20 others receiving a computer.

According to the news release, the Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program recognizes high school seniors for their "leadership skills, positive attitude, academic achievement and various community service activities." Since 2001, the program has awarded nearly $20 million in college aid to nearly 20,000 students.

In addition to the students' families, some assembly members joined the event. For a complete list of the participating students, visit http://comcastcalifornia.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&;item=743

PLAY BALL: Amarachi Metu recently found that volunteering pays off in many ways.

The Dozier-Libbey Medical High student was recently in elite company during the Giants Home Plate ceremony for student volunteers. The San Francisco baseball team partners with the Jefferson Awards for Public Service to honor seven high school students annually.

Teacher Dr. Cynthia J. Soraoka said Metu volunteered at Antioch's Kaiser Permanente and at an orphanage in Nigeria last summer, was school president last year, and organized several clothing drives for the homeless in the community.

"I am very proud of (Metu) and her community service accomplishments," said Soraoka.

If you have school news to share, contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net.