Gardens. Orchards. Cooking. Worms. All are ingredients to connecting people to good food, community and the environment, according to Emily Hampton, Executive Director, and Melissa Freiburger, Director of Programs, at Sunrise Project.
Sunrise Project is an effort to “empower people to live healthy, self-determined lives through engagement with food and the environment to build a socially just community.” It’s a significant challenge, as some people in Lawrence do not know much about where food comes from or how to prepare it to eat.
The non-profit organization is developing a center that includes workshop space, a community kitchen, and gardens. The group has also planted a small orchard. Community members are invited to enjoy the harvest by picking what they need to bring home.
Healthy Sprouts provides programming to child care centers and in-home daycares that includes gardens, food-based curriculum, family engagement and farm connections. For older children, Sunrise facilitates a cooking and gardening club at Cordley Elementary and a cooking club at New York Elementary. Sunrise is also building a worm bin to demonstrate vermicomposting, the process of composting using worms.
In addition to its outreach to young people, Sunrise Project has partnered with Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department to develop a health equity model. Eight Community Coordinators were hired and trained in food systems, local policy and civic engagement. They then went out to gather everyday stories and experiences with food in Douglas County. Those stories were incorporated in the Food Plan that will inform future decisions in the county for years to come.
Ray, son of Lawrence Central Rotarian Audrey Coleman, stands with his sister Zea after the club meeting they attended with their mom. Ray was so inspired that he drew apples, cherries, and a tree while listening to the presentation. The Sunrise Project hit its mark!
Over two dozen eighth graders from Southwest Middle School told Lawrence Central Rotarians their ideas about how to make the world a better place. The students are all members of the Future City team that placed first in regional competition and then took home the fifth-place prize at the national Future City competition in Washington, D.C. In May, members of the team will give their presentation once again at the annual meeting of Underwriters Laboratories, a Future City sponsor. They are one of two teams who have been invited to attend the meeting.
The Future City competition encourages middle schoolers nationwide to “imagine, research, design and build cities of the future.” This year the challenge for the competition was “The Power of Public Space.” The Southwest team selected Jakarta, Indonesia, to re-imagine 150 years in the future. They called their new city “Teratai,” a word that means lotus in Indonesian, symbolizing “the peace and serenity that is part of the rebuilt city.”
In the process of their work, the students learned and followed engineering methods: identify the problem; learn the specifications; brainstorm solutions; design it; build it; then test, improve, and re-design. The program requires each team to develop a project plan, create the city virtually, compose a 300-word essay to describe their solution, build a working model out of recycled materials, and present their concept in a seven-minute talk. Co-coaches Danielle Lotton-Barker and Jamie Shaw guided the team in their work.
When asked what they had learned from their experience, the students repeatedly exclaimed about the power of teamwork. They came together last fall as individuals with diverse talents, interests, and expertise, and they learned to work together to create not only a prize-winning product but also to develop respect for each other’s contributions and strong friendships. Several said that they intend to pursue careers in engineering and related professions because they enjoyed working on the project so much.
USD 497 Superintendent Kyle Hayden brought a message to Lawrence Central Rotarians focusing on an upcoming mail-in ballot election.
Kyle Hayden grew up in Sabetha, Kansas, and attended college at Tabor, later earning an advanced degree at Emporia State University. He worked at several teaching assignments in the state before serving five years as Assistant Superintendent for USD 497. He has been on the job for one year, presiding over the seventh largest district in the state, including 1,850 employees and 11,700 students. The District is experiencing steady growth with a ½% to 1% growth increase a year. Kyle Hayden has three children, and his wife is a teacher at Free State High School.
The District strives to achieve a creative engagement of teachers, parents, and community in order to provide and excellent education. Toward that end the May 2, 2017 Mail Ballot Election is intended to address long standing building deficiencies, primarily for the middle schools and high schools. These schools are all in need of more flexible spaces, energy efficiencies and more secure entrances. Due to its age Lawrence High School is a particular focus of the plan. The development of this proposal was the charge of a Facilities Planning Committee, focus groups, administrators, staff and students. The result is an 87 million dollar bond proposal with 58,000 dollars identified for Lawrence High School. A 2.4 mill tax on local property will be required to fund the plan.
The election time line provides for voter registration to be completed by April 11. Ballots will be mailed April 12 and must be marked and returned to the County Clerk’s Office by noon May 2. Work could start as soon as next summer if the Bond is approved. More information on the Facilities Master Plan and the Mail Ballot measure may be viewed at the District web site.
Van-Go Development Director Eliza Darmon
Van Go is a unique and creative non-profit program that has provided employment, guidance, and success for disadvantaged youth in the Lawrence community. Development Director Eliza Darmon presented the story of this award -winning program started 20 years ago by Lynn Green with a modest Arts Commission grant.
Van Go has grown into an arts based social service and jobs program serving at-risk teens aged 14-24. Van Go operates a year-round after school and summer job training experience utilizing local businesses, nonprofits, and community members who provide over 100 youth employment opportunities annually. Young people are usually referred to Van Go through school social workers and have an IEP, a mental health diagnosis or have been in the court system. Some 70 percent of these young people live in poverty. Accordingly, the program is committed to providing a support system which includes academics and tutoring, counseling, encouraging a healthy lifestyle and other life skills. Clients participate in Bench Mark, an eight weeks employment program in which a bench is constructed and placed in the community. The Adornment program employs 22 clients to produce art and decorations for the yearly Van Go recognition ceremony. Young people also plan and paint a mural each spring. A tile recognition wall also provides employment with colorful fused tiles representing over 700 donors.
Van Go has a budget of $743,000 with almost half coming from Federal, City and County funding. The rest comes from donations, fundraisers, art sales, two well-attended annual dinners, and an on-site gallery that is open 9:00 am through 5:00 pm. The Van Go website is http://www.van-go.org/.
Mark your calendars! Wednesday Oct 7th is the official day that Lawrence Schools are encouraging students to walk or bike to school.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department had a great website with information about finding the best routes to your local school and even has maps.
From the website: “Be Active Safe Routes is a local movement to create safe opportunities for children to bike and walk to and from schools. The goal is to get children moving again and to reverse the growing rate of childhood obesity.
In 1969, approximately 50 percent of children in the U.S. walked or biked to school. Today, fewer than 15 percent do. As a result, kids today are less active, less independent and less healthy.
“The research is pretty clear that kids who walk and bike to school are more active. They will be healthier and perform better in school.” – Community Health Director Chris Tilden.”