Breckenridge Texan

Breckenridge student leadership team wins contest with community garden project

Breckenridge student leadership team wins contest with community garden project
November 28
12:45 2021

By Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

The Breckenridge High School team of Liberty Vandergriff, Aimee Toliver, Rylan Sims and Kason Knight earned the first place award in the 2021 Texas Midwest Community Network’s annual Leadership TMCN program contest, and earlier this month, the Breckenridge Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corp. honored the students and their advisers with a luncheon.

The students spent six months working to spruce up the Breckenridge Community Garden, aka Gardenville, which is located in the 300 block of North Smith Street. They will share a $2,000 scholarship, which will be presented at the BHS scholarship ceremony at the end of the school year.

The students were mentored in the project by Lisa Echols and Jason Reeves, a BHS science teacher. The Breckenridge Chamber and EDC are members of the TMCN.

The project focused on revitalizing the community garden and included building and installing boxes for raised vegetable and flower gardens, as well as growing some produce, which was donated to a local food bank. They grew cabbage, broccoli, squash, melons, cabbage and more, Vandergriff said.

According to information from TMCN, “the Leadership TMCN Program provides students and business leaders exposure and inspiration on various leadership topics, opportunities to network with peer groups from other communities, and direction to develop and implement programs within their community to address a specific issue.”

In addition to the work of improving the community garden, part of the project included researching the needs of the community to determine a worthy venture, talking to local residents for ideas and information, raising funds, etc. “Our project required a lot of communication and asking for help,” Toliver told the group of community members at the luncheon. “For young people, it’s very intimidating to ask older people for help because you don’t really know what you’re doing, so it’s a new experience.”

For the Gardenville project, the leadership team students talked to some of the people who have garden plots there to get tips and tricks for gardening. “Genoa Goad came out and talked to us,” Sims said. “He’s known as the Mayor of Gardenville and is generally out here.”

The students also arranged for the Gunsight Baptist Church Youth Group to continue taking care of the garden. “It’s an important part of the project for it to continue into the future,” Echols said. “They did an excellent job of recruiting someone to continue the good works.”

Another part of the project and contest is to make presentations, telling the community and eventually a three-member contest judging team about what they’ve done.  Colton Buckley, CEO and Executive Director of the BEDC, said that one aspect to the Breckenridge team’s success was that they dressed professionally for the official presentation to the judges. “None of the top three competitors knew they were going to win, but our advisers here in Breckenridge made sure that our students were the best dressed,” he said. “So, I’m very appreciative of that. For some of the other communities, the kids showed up in gym shorts. So they’re not only learning about the competition, but the professional aspect, as well.”

On a BISD Facebook page, Aimee Toliver made the following statement on behalf of the team:

“We feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to complete a project of this caliber. There is no way we would have been able to accomplish our goal without the help of our community. The work that was put into this project has paid off, and now we can see that all of the long days were worth it. The smiling faces of our community have made it worth all of the effort. We would like to thank everyone who contributed to our success, as well as those who showed support throughout the entire process. Our group would also like to recognize Jason Reeves and Lisa Echols for the faith they had in us and in our ideas, and they always had our back! Being part of this program has made us all realize that we all need to take the initiative to put forth our thoughts and that networking and communication are such vital keys to developing, selling, and implementing one’s ideas.”

Previous Breckenridge Leadership TMCN teams worked on various community projects, including renovating the recently renamed Booker T. Washington Park and improving the old YMCA building. In 2017, the team of Elyssa Glick, Mackenzie Harris, Diana Patterson and Braxton Post won first place for their project to improve the Breckenridge City Park.

Members of the 2021 Breckenridge TMCN Leadership Project team spoke to a group of local community leaders at a luncheon to honor the students for recently winning first place in the TMCN’s annual community project contest. Pictured, from left, are Liberty Vandergriff, Aimee Toliver, Rylan Sims and Kason Knight. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Cutline, top photo: After a recent luncheon honoring their work, a team of Breckenridge High School students gathered in the Breckenridge Community Garden on North Smith Street to show what their project had accomplished. Pictured, from left, are BEDC Executive Director Colton Buckley; students Liberty Vandergriff, Kason Knight, Rylan Sims and Aimee Toliver; and advisers Lisa Echols and Jason Reeves. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)


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