School Gardens Plant Powerful Seeds

Family foundation’s support changes high school students’ lives

Katy Smith, Moses Thompson photo
Building a chicken coop
Pipeline Internship participants build a chicken coop.

For high school students who emerge as leaders in Tucson High Magnet School’s garden, the Community and School Garden Program is opening unexpected paths to the University of Arizona.

Two initiatives within CSGP show high school participants a UA degree is within reach. Neither program would exist without the Zuckerman Family Foundation, and they’re among several CSGP projects the Tucson-based foundation supports.

Jumpstart is an opportunity for selected Tucson High students to take the UA’s Community and School Garden Workshop at no cost. 

“Most of these kids haven’t even thought about going to college, but they’re really bright and dedicated. And gardens make kids self-reliant and confident,” says CSGP Director Sallie Marston.

The students register with the UA and earn three hours of college credit. 

“So they’ve already navigated a lot of the bureaucracy that can be really intimidating for first-generation students. And they start to get familiar with campus and hopefully see themselves here,” says Moses Thompson, CSGP’s coordinator for the UA and Tucson Unified School District.

In the second program, Pipeline Internships, Tucson High students partner with alumni of the school who are attending the UA. They work together to support students in the garden at Manzo Elementary School. Those kids will attend Tucson High and, with the influence of these role models, perhaps the UA. 

For the high school and college interns, it means paid summer employment and a chance to develop as leaders in their own communities. 

The Zuckerman Family Foundation has invested in CSGP since 2014 and is committed to doing so through 2019. In addition to the Pipeline Internships and Jumpstart, the foundation has funded the Supporting Environmental Education and Communities program and a CSGP program manager position.

The relationship resulted from a decision to focus the Zuckerman Family Foundation’s priorities, says Executive Director Nicole Zuckerman-Morris.

The board started with a desire to increase access to healthy, fresh food in the Southern Arizona community. The issue has long been a passion for Zuckerman-Morris’ grandfather, Mel Zuckerman, who with his wife made the naming gift for the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Zuckerman-Morris and her fellow board members “basically fell in love” with CSGP, she says. They appreciate the kids’ excitement for growing and eating healthy food and readiness to apply lessons from the garden to classroom lessons.

The Zuckerman Family Foundation has been a partner in CSGP’s expansion to more schools and evolution to more robust programming. Supporting CSGP has helped her family fulfill its philanthropic goals, says Zuckerman-Morris.

“Ultimately, we’d like to inspire as many young people as possible to live healthy and happy lives and to strive to be passionate about learning and treating their bodies right,” she says.