Bradley County Juvenile Court celebrated the graduation of its second class in the Junior Master Gardening program class Wednesday.
“It feels relieving, like I’ve got something off my chest. I don’t have to worry about coming back here (to court) again,” graduate Tracy Gentry Jr. said.
The program provides an opportunity for children to work off community service hours required by the court system by attending classes and working in the garden.
“It’s been an adventure. It’s been different. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Youth Service officer Steven Rogers said. “These kids are great kids.”
Master Gardeners Deborah Flower and Leslie Humberd, both also certified teachers, led the class.
“The Junior Master Gardener program has provided a positive learning experience for your child,” Flower said. “The program was designed to incorporate math, science, language arts and geography, all through garden-based activities.”
Students developed leadership and responsibility as they worked with a partner in their raised garden bed.
Herbs and insects were memorable lessons for the students.
Graduate Starla Thomas said she enjoyed learning about herbs.
Graduate Noah Ware said the lesson on worms made some of the girls scream.
Gentry said he enjoyed working in the garden and learning new things about it. He also enjoyed interacting with the other students.
In his garden plot, Gentry and his partner grew strawberries.
“They tasted good,” He said. “I’m surprised that the garden is still as nice as it is with it being so cold.”
Flower said it was good to see the students enjoying gardening and eating vegetables.
“Congratulations to the graduates. I hope you enjoyed it, but more important, I hoped you learned something that might be a help to you as you go on through your life,” said Judge Daniel Swafford.
Flower said she hopes the program helps children get back on the right track. “I am very pleased with this group,” she said.
Parent Tim Ware said his son’s attitude has been more positive since being a part of the program.
“We’re real proud of him,” Ware said. “He’s growing up. He’s getting responsible.”
Swafford said he learned a lot from gardening when he was a young person, and he wanted to bring this to the Juvenile Court. The partnership with the Master Gardeners took the court’s garden to the next level.
Families celebrated the students’ accomplishments with a meal after the ceremony.
Just as a partnership with the Master Gardeners makes the program possible, several sponsors contributed to the success as well.
This season’s class was sponsored by Lowe’s, Perry’s Petals, Beaty’s Fertilizer Co., Johnson Foundation, Hardee’s, Wendy’s Restaurant, Ooltewah Nursery and Subway.
The program will be offered again in February, Flower said.