TEWKSBURY — The closure of schools and businesses has been a difficult transition for all. Students have moved to online learning, but students who participate in Tewksbury Memorial High School’s LEAP program had a bit of a challenge finding routine and continuation of their life skills training.
According to LEAP teacher and program director Pat Galligan, the closure of stores and businesses took away the vocational training aspect of the students’ day. Though students were able to attend some online classes from home, the pandemic has taken away their ability to participate in the community.
The LEAP program helps students with special abilities, who have graduated, continue to acquire life skills in a school setting.
Enter the QuaranGreen program. The brainchild of Burlington High School junior Matt Tengtrakool, QuaranGreen grows lettuce starts and shares them out to surrounding communities as a way to help people combat the effects of isolation during the pandemic. Tengtrakool said that he has six LEAP students from Tewksbury participating.
Galligan drives to Burlington from his home in Pepperell to pick up the starts, pots, planting medium and directions. He delivers the supplies to the home of Christine Flynn, an aide in the LEAP program, where a socially distanced planting area was staged.
“Each student managed about 12 plants, printed out name tags for recipients, and handled the delivery,” said Galligan, who said this project is the perfect marriage of community engagement, life skills and routine.
Community members sign up with QuaranGreen and ask for a lettuce plant. The volunteers deliver them in a contactless manner after mapping out a route and caring for the plants for a few days.
Parent Josie Dwight was thrilled with the response of her daughter, Hannah. Hannah has been in the LEAP program for a few years and Dwight said that she was so happy that Hannah was open to the project.
According to Dwight, Hannah spent “half the day” planting and the experience has sparked a real interest in gardening. During the delivery, Hannah and her mom were laughing the whole time.
“We met two different families on our route,” said Dwight, “and Hannah was so happy, she was even invited to a pool party.”
The LEAP students have been growing greens at TMHS for the past two years on an indoor growing system funded through the efforts of Tewksbury food service director Debralee Mugford and directed by environmental sciences teacher Janet Gordon, so the students are no strangers to the benefits of greens.
Galligan is grateful for the program and even has his own children participating.
“QuaranGreen is a safe way for our students to get out of the house, promote healthy eating, create a routine by caring for the plants, and engage with the community through delivery of the plants. It dovetails perfectly,” he said.
To sign up for a lettuce plant or to volunteer, visit https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfJRvlQuHMpAk5iBttdFj0FiN6k0TibEjCsSpgDjPL_WeLE5Q/viewform or follow on Twitter @QuaranGreen. Additional groups in Tewksbury are working on the project and will be featured in an upcoming article.