By Doug Judge, Assistant Principal for Seattle Public Schools’ Interagency Academy
King County Juvenile Detention, in partnership with Interagency Academy, hosted Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks, his wife Pele, and other members of the Bennett Foundation to inaugurate the new Bennett Foundation Garden located within the detention facility. Built by Interagency Academy students at our Opportunity Skyway site in Georgetown with a $5,000 grant provided by the Bennett Foundation, the garden seeks to provide students with an opportunity to learn about growing food, healthy eating, and biology through hands-on gardening and art experiences.
The project represents a unique partnership between the Foundation, King County, Interagency Academy (Seattle Public Schools), the King County detention kitchen, and community volunteers. The food in the garden will be planted, maintained, and harvested by students, and will be used in the kitchen to feed the very students who grew the food. This farm-to-table project is also intended to provide a therapeutic educational experience for our students, many of whom have undergone significant trauma in their lives. Funding from the Bennett Foundation is also supporting the design, painting, and installation of food- and nutrition-themed art murals for the detention garden area. These will be created and painted by students in detention with the support of teachers and community volunteers.
During his visit, Michael Bennett and members of his family and foundation spent time speaking with students in the library about topics including goal setting, perseverance, community resources, employment and college, future-planning, and community re-entry. Michael also shared some of his personal experiences with food, exercise, and nutrition, and described the incredible work his Foundation is doing in other cities. We all then went out to the new garden space, and students partnered up with adults to talk and plant vegetables and edible flowers in ten new garden boxes filled with organic Cedar Grove potting soil. The compostable food waste generated at the juvenile detention center is recycled into compost by Cedar Grove at their facility in nearby Maple Valley.
Michael and his team then visited our other main Interagency Academy site located in Columbia City, where our network of 12 school sites welcomes new students each week throughout the school year (many of whom have previously spent time in juvenile detention) and also have a larger garden program for students. We toured the gardens, orchard, and greenhouse, where students in our paid job skills training program provided an overview of their experiences in growing and selling the food at the local farmer’s market.
Michael expressed his interest in returning on a regular basis to work with more students and expand the types of food grown in the detention garden to include dwarf fruit trees. We are excited to continue this innovative and therapeutic partnership with the Bennett Foundation to support our youth.