The St. John Berchman's garden sign. (Photo by M. Garcia)
An instructor teaches youth about herbs and how to tend the garden. (Photo by M. Garcia)
Community leaders, realizing a critical need among impoverished families in the San Antonio inner city, created Hope for the Future as a way out of the cycle of poverty for their children. Hope for the Future has awarded tuition assistance funds to 9,800 students in the San Antonio Archdiocese. The goal at Hope for the Future is to fund every deserving child whose family seeks the faith-filled and academically rigorous education at one of San Antonio’s Catholic schools. Their recent newsletter highlighted Texas A&M’s CYFAR-funded project at one of their schools. St. John Berchmans Catholic School has proudly embraced the opportunities provided by the funding from the Children Youth and Families at Risk grant. A garden was built in Spring of 2015, students attended 4-H Prime Time camp, attended robotics camp at St. Mary’s University, and have taken several field trips in the Fall of 2015. One field trip was to Texas A&M University in College Station where the students were led by two minority organizations: Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) and Society of Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans (SACNAS). The students and parents were addressed by the Agriculture, Leadership, Education, and Communications Department: Dr. Elliott, Dr. Ripley, Dr. Alexander, Dr. Dromgoole, Araceli Trejo (recruiting coordinator), and alum. The students were able to take part in hands-on activities that the MANRRS and SACNAS prepared that allowed the students to be a part of agriculture and its many resources. Admissions provided lanyards and the students were handed goodie bags that contained information about Texas A&M. The field trip was on a Saturday during football season against Alabama. While the students did not attend the game, they were able soak in the ambience of Texas A&M culture and tradition! This field trip proved to be a success on many levels. The exposure to higher education and hands-on activities that dealt with health and plants met several of the CYFAR objectives that will have lasting effects. This is only the beginning as four years of activities and field trips are planned to provide students with sound dietary habits and nutrition, become college ready, apply Science, Math, and Reading to demonstrate home gardening, and learn about the array of Teas A&M AgriLife Extension careers along with 4-H chartered club experiences. What a blessing for St. John Berchmans Catholic School and community! All of the students that took part in the field trip have consent from self and parents to take part in the CYFAR grant study and photo release. Similar efforts are being made in Harris County where a new assistant program coordinator, Rocio Reyes, was recently hired to lead the program at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School for freshman at the high school. A garden has been built and is ready for planting. Students meet during lunch for 4-H activities and field trips are planned as well for the Spring and Summer. Mr. Rispin, the teacher liaison will be teaching the AgriScience curriculum this Spring.