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Growing Minds is a program of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. ASAP’s mission is to help local farms thrive, link farmers to markets and supporters, and build healthy communities through connections to local food.

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Growing Minds @ University wins WCU service learning awards

At the 2013-2014 community service award ceremony at Western Carolina University (WCU),  Service Learning Director, Lane Perry delivered a message to the students, faculty, and community partners present. Mr. Perry said that the greatest leaders of our times–Dr. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela–began their path to leadership not by leading, but through hands-on service to others and through close, inquisitive observation in their communities. He went on to say that these are the experiences WCU values most for its students and that the university’s leadership considers critical to students’ collegiate years and professional training.

For WCU, ASAP and its Growing Minds @ University program have proven to be a natural fit  and successful partner to the university’s initiative to promote service learning. Through the ASAP program, WCU professors have integrated local food and farm to school service learning opportunities into their courses. Hundreds of young adults majoring in nutrition and education have volunteered in schools to conduct local food cooking classes, gardening lessons, farmer classroom visits, and cafeteria taste tests. One result of the students’ efforts is healthier children and healthier families in the community. Over the past four years, the project has also cultivated leadership, research, and collaboration within both the faculty and student bodies. This leadership and ASAP’s partnership with WCU was recognized time and time again during the university’s service learning award ceremony.

For the 2013-2014 academic year, ASAP was given the university’s award for “Excellence in Community Partnership.” Dr. Patricia Bricker accepted the award for “Outstanding Achievement in Research” for her work with Growing Minds @ University.” Nutrition undergraduate student, Kristin Kowalczyk won the recognition for “Individual Excellence in Community Service” and was also named a Medford Scholar, which comes with a monetary scholarship to honor her volunteerism with ASAP. The audience and presenters took notice of the multiple accolades going to local food and farm to school work and pointed to the collaboration as a model to strive towards.

Talk with WCU students and they will confirm Mr. Perry’s assertion that service learning changes lives:

 “Farm to School experiences have totally changed my view of what kids will eat and I’ve also discovered new things I like! I would have never eaten a smoothie with spinach before, but after seeing the kids gobble them down, I couldn’t resist and I tried it. They were delicious!”

“Since being a volunteer with Farm to School I have started my own garden.  I figured if we can get green growing with kindergartners, I can surely get a garden going myself.  Also, I buy more local produce and am more interested in where my food comes from.”

“I come from generations of farmers. This program has allowed me to connect to these individuals in a way that I had not before.”

 

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