A new initiative is in bloom at Arlington Christian School. In the spring of this year, NFL veteran Sean Jones teamed up with students and staff to break ground on a community garden. The garden is the beginning of what administrators hope to be a comprehensive STEM program.
Jones, owner of Hillside Farms Atlanta, was initially approached by Michael Carson, Arlington Christian’s head football coach, to join his staff as a defensive coordinator. Carson coached Jones two decades ago when he was a football player at Westlake High School.
After learning how Jones had developed a passion for agriculture after retiring from the NFL, Carson thought he’d be a perfect partner for a community garden. The seed was planted and the idea grew from there.
“After I retired from football, I was wondering what I was going to do,” said Jones. “The Lord put it on my heart to give back to the community. I’m excited to help start this agriculture program.”
Carson and Jones helped students and staff plant the first seeds in the Arlington Christian School community garden on April 18. Strawberries, sweet peppers and carrots were just a few of the fruits and vegetables that went into the ground. Carson has goals to plant and harvest a wide variety of foods to not only serve in the school’s cafeteria, but also to share with community members in need.
Carson’s inspiration comes from Roy Reid, who also helped with the first planting. Reid was also coached by Carson as a football player at Avondale High School. He now supervises the farm mentorship program at Urban Agriculture Community-based Research Experience (U-ACRE) at Cal State Fullerton.
In his role, Reid provides support, life skills and work experience for children in the foster care system. The unique agricultural program has proved to be fundamental in helping the children to thrive.
Carson and Jones flew out to California to see Reid’s program firsthand. Carson said that Reid’s mission of “growing food and people” is helping to shape the work that’s being done at Arlington Christian today.
Although Arlington Christian has attracted partners and expertise, there’s still help that’s needed.
“The biggest thing in terms of trying to expand the garden is that there’s never enough volunteers,” said Carson. “I’m of the mindset that it takes a village to raise one child. So if we can get everyone in the community involved with what we’re doing here at Arlington, I think it will make the community as a whole a lot better.”
The community will have a chance to pitch in this Saturday, June 29. Starting at 9:00 a.m. volunteers are asked to come out to help continue work on the garden. The event is in partnership with The Home Depot Foundation.
Arlington Christian School is located at 4500 Ridge Road. Those interested in volunteering and in need of additional information should contact Michael Carson at 678-663-7514.