Five fourth-graders from Kemper Elementary plan to be in Washington, D.C., this morning to help plant the White House Kitchen Garden with first lady Michelle Obama.
Students Miles Frost, Gael Garcia, Christian Rebaza, Cecelia Thom and Trenity Tillahash will spend about two hours on Tuesday helping plant the garden, outgoing School to Farm director Sarah Syverson said. They’ll also get to help NASA astronaut Cady Coleman and the first lady plant the same variety of lettuce that has been grown on the International Space Station.
The event will be broadcast on a live-stream from the White House starting Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. Mountain time on www.whitehouse.gov/live.
Four other schools, from Wisconsin, Louisiana, Georgia and New Jersey, were given the opportunity to send students to help plan the garden.
The Kemper students are traveling as part of the Montezuma School to Farm Project, a program of the Mancos Conservation District. Syverson, who organized the trip, said it’s a major honor for the program.
“We’re thrilled,” she said. “The whole School to Farm team is happy and thrilled for the kids who get to go.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture regional director identified Montezuma School to Farm Project to White House officials right away as a program that stood out in a multistate region, Syverson said.
Obama started planting a garden around the South Lawn of the White House in 2009 to start a conversation about the health and wellbeing of the nation, according to a press release. That conversation evolved into the “Let’s Move!” initiative, which Obama created in 2010 to address American childhood obesity. This will be the final time as first lady that she will plant the garden.
The Kemper kids were chosen for the trip because they work hard, enjoy gardening and will represent the area well, Syverson said. The diverse group of students includes kids from various cultural backgrounds, and it was important to represent Montezuma County’s native and cultural heritage when the group was chosen, she said.
Kemper School Garden Coordinator Danyel Mezzanatto and Americorps member Patrick Alford will be chaperones for the trip. Mezzanatto said she feels very honored to be on the trip to represent Kemper, School to Farm and Montezuma County.
“I wish we could take the whole school,” she said. “I’m excited for these students to come back and share their experience with everyone. It’s an amazing opportunity for our town and for our kids.”
Syverson said School to Farm staff members organized the trip on a quick turnaround — they received confirmation Tuesday from the White House that they were approved to go. In about 24 hours, various community organizations came together to help fund the trip, she said.
Montezuma School to Farm Project is one of the top school garden programs in the nation, Syverson said. Most areas don’t have a top-caliber program, she added.
Montezuma County has a deep cultural connection to its agricultural heritage, but people in the region still struggle to maintain their health, Syverson said. The School to Farm Project seeks to bridge that gap by teaching kids about the source of their food and that healthy gardening techniques yield healthy food, she said.
“Connecting that gap and being recognized on a national level — that’s a really exciting experience,” Syverson said. “We’re really proud. We’ve only been around for five years, and for us to get that recognition that we’re making a difference ... is something for the community to be proud of and be a part of.”