“Right now, what I’m doing is trimming the edges, the dead edge from off the plant so the plant can get more nutrients,” says one student in the Academy for College and Career Exploration’s new garden.

The Academy for College and Career Exploration has gone a little greener with the addition of a large, new garden that students and school staff have worked on for several years, dating back to 2011 when the area, about three-quarters of an acre, was a black top used as a parking lot for the teachers. The school entered a partnership with Blue Water Baltimore to make it all happen.

“There were kids planting native species in the front of the school and they planted a vegetable garden on the side of the school and they helped paint the mural behind the school, and participated on the day that they ripped up the asphalt, so the kids were a big part of that,” explains Victoria Matthew, a teacher at the school.

“Thanks to us, our school’s got more recognition because our school isn’t really that old,” says Jasmia, an ACCE student. “So because of the gardens, we’ve become a green school – a Maryland green school and that’s a big thing.”

Through the task of reshaping the landscape and completely altering it to make it a garden, the students gain a great sense of accomplishment and work ethic.

“They really feel a sense of pride and a sense of ownership and that extends into work ethic which will help them in whatever it is they try to do later,” says William Moeller, another teacher who helped make the garden what it is today.

Much of the produce grown in the garden is picked and sold to the community, with restaurants in the Hampden area purchasing the vegetables from the students to use in their own dishes.

“This year, we planted a new pepper and we made it hotter than it was supposed to be,” explains Amber, a student at ACCE. “Because of that, we have a sale at Frazier’s where they buy a lot of the peppers just because they’re hot.”

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