Many of the vegetables served at the fifth annual “Taste of Pleasant Hill” event Thursday night at L.H. Williams Elementary School were grown in the neighborhood’s garden.
That garden, the center of the neighborhood’s renaissance, also serves as an analogy for what educators are trying to instill in the school’s students — growth as individuals.
“We wanted to start our renovation of the neighborhood with the garden,” said Naomi Johnson, a retired Bibb County schoolteacher who serves as the coordinator for the garden. “Every good story, no matter what you believe or what religion you are, starts in a garden. ... We want to give these kids a reason to be proud of who they are and where they are from.”
The dinner allows the students to interact with members of the community, as well as Mercer University students who have been contributing to Pleasant Hill by working in the garden and teaching the kids at L.H. Williams.
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Amanda Rutherford, a Mercer freshman majoring in communications, addressed the audience after a musical presentation and said teaching the children gave her the same feeling as cultivating the garden.
“I thought I had seen everything until I saw Pleasant Hill,” she told the audience, adding later, “Here, you learn what it means to be a community.”
Randy Harshbarger, an associate professor of interdisciplinary studies, teaches the class of which Rutherford and the other Mercer students are a part. The class, called “Composing The Self,” is designed to teach the students by working within the community rather than in a classroom environment.
“I think it teaches students how to overcome obstacles, patience, teamwork,” he said. “For example, the students work out a carpool because not all of them have cars. They divide themselves up according to the needs of the teachers. You can’t just read about things like that. They have setbacks. We talk about the pluses and minuses.”
For L.H. Williams principal Shandrina Griffin-Stewart, having the Mercer students there allows her to have role models who can interact with the elementary school children.
“They help our students during the day with science, math, reading — whatever we need,” she said. “It’s a community service piece for them as they research the Pleasant Hill community. ... I feel it helps our students appreciate the Pleasant Hill community and become lifelong members of the community. The Mercer students are great role models and help make a good case for our kids to go to college.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.