As a student in the Purdue University North Central class, Child, Family, School & Community Partnerships , Kelly Salyer was required to take part in a service learning project with a community agency that worked with young children, parents and educators.
She knew just where she wanted to be. She’d volunteered at the Valparaiso Family YMCA during the fall semester and at that time YMCA personnel explained to her they longed to have a “healthy garden.” The garden would be an ideal opportunity for the youngsters in the YMCA Child Care program to learn to grow fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers while establishing healthy eating habits.
Salyer, an Early Childhood Education major from Westville, dedicated herself to making the garden a reality. Her commitment was so strong that spent hours of her own time to working with Laura Weaver, PNC Service Learning coordinator, and Carla Patino-Davis, Valparaiso Family YMCA Child Care administrative assistant of Child Care, researching, writing and fine-tuning a grant application for an Indiana Campus Compact Community Service Mini-Grant to help fund the project.
Indiana Campus Compact supports higher education’s efforts to develop students into well-informed, engaged citizens. The Lilly Endowment Inc. has generously provided funding for the Indiana Campus Compact Community Service Mini-Grant.
The healthy garden project began on Earth Day, April 22 when Salyer helped children in the YMCA Child Care program plant a variety of seeds in indoor pots. Once the seeds began to grow and the weather warm was enough, the plants were relocated to outdoor beds.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for children to explore and nurture the value of creating green space in their community,” said Bob Wanek, CEO of the Valparaiso Family YMCA. “The Y deeply appreciates the talents of Kelly Salyer in securing this grant.”
Children taking part in various YMCA programs were happy to work in their garden. Andrew Jackson, a student in the All Day Preschool class, said to his mother Jodi Jackson, “Guess what Mom? My teacher told me we are going to grow vegetables in our garden and we will be able to eat them later!”
A key component of the grant application was for Salyer to recruit student volunteers from other colleges, enlisting support from students at Valparaiso University and Ivy Tech Community College.
Taking on the garden project gave Salyer the opportunity to work with volunteers and community members and broadens her experience as a future teacher.
The YMCA staff and clients are thrilled with the project. Patino-Davis said, “The Y child care department is very grateful for Dr. Mary Jane Eisenhauer (PNC assistant professor of Early Childhood Education), Kelly and Laura Weaver for their hard work and dedication to the Valparaiso Family YMCA Child Care Program. Another thank you goes to Mark Bluell, Y Team Volunteer Garden Leader, for building the raised garden plots. He will share his knowledge and skills with all of us.”
The PNC Child, Family, School & Community Partnerships course emphasizes the interconnectedness of the different aspects within a child’s world that influence their development. Other students in the course worked with agencies throughout Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.
Interestingly, Salyer was a kindergarten student of Debra Pratt, PNC continuing lecturer of Education, when Pratt taught at Westville Elementary School.
The Early Childhood Education program at PNC is committed to providing its students with quality service learning opportunities. The commitment to giving back to one’s community can begin anytime and Salyer is helping to foster this commitment in young children.
“We can see the effects of high quality early childhood – Kelly is now enrolled in college and active in her community,” said Eisenhauer, who teaches the Child, Family, School & Community Partnerships course. “When she enrolled in the course, Kelly knew exactly where she wanted to be to fulfill the service-learning requirement: the Valparaiso Family YMCA.”
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