With state budget deficit, the California school system is suffering. However, Saint Mary's students are volunteering to help run programs which might otherwise be cut at local schools. The Liberal & Civic Studies program at SMC has led the way helping in the garden at Cambridge Elementary, a Concord school with Title I status, which means it qualifies for federal funding because of high poverty levels among students.

Bob Gardener, a faculty member in the L&CS department, took over the project this semester and not only organized a garden, but a mural as well.
"I thought the garden looked industrial because of the cinder blocks, so I talked with the SMC students to come up with an alternative."

Brainstorming led to an idea to beautify the garden by having the Cambridge students paint the cinder-block planter boxes and to create a large mural across the side of the nearby storage container. Gardener and his group of students got in contact with Precita Eyes Mural Arts Association, the San Francisco-based organization that painted murals about the Divine Comedy in Dante Hall at Saint Mary's. The students toured San Francisco to look at other murals by Precita Eyes, and visited the Alemany Food Market for inspiration.

The project was elaborate. Jessica O'Gorman did not have much painting experience but still felt the most difficult part of the project was finding the hours to complete it. The students worked a six-hour day in the rain to get it done.

Saint Mary's students said the the most rewarding part was not completing the project, but working with the Cambridge students.

"We observed children's creative minds at work, as they patiently painted their individual blocks and planted their little radish seeds," O'Gorman said.

The project allowed the students to get involved at a deeper level. "It gives them ownership of the garden," Gardner said. "I was really impressed with the painting."

Caitlin Graveson '11

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