Thursday, March 17, 2011

Vermont students spend spring break with special education students at Berry Good Farms | jacksonville.com

Students from Vermont visit to work with special education students here.

By Southside Sun

Berry bushes recently brought together 10 students from Vermont and 19 students from North Florida, as they joined forces to begin planting 100 blueberry bushes and 100 raspberry bushes at a place in Arlington called Berry Good Farms.

ERIK M. TANNER/Staff

The University of Vermont students and 19 students from the North Florida School of Special Education recently helped launch the new horticulture project located at the North Florida school's Arlington campus. They planted berry bushes, along with a variety of fruit trees, to create a "sustainable entrepreneurial endeavor" that could provide jobs for the North Florida school's 18- to 22-year-old transition students, according to a news release.

The school serves elementary-age to transition-age students with mild to moderate developmental disabilities. The Transition Program focuses on academics and vocational training with a job coach and employment specialist.

The Vermont students embarked on the project as an alternative to spring break.

"We are thrilled to have the college students working with our developmentally disabled students to launch this exciting horticulture project," Sally Hazelip, the North Florida school's executive director, said in the release. "Our Transition Program is constantly looking for endeavors that will be both educational and hopefully create long term job opportunities for the students."

The students' blueberry planting was overseen by horticulturist Tim Armstrong, whose son is in the school's elementary class. He has "taken an idea and put many hours of his time into making this a reality for our school," Hazelip said in the release.

The ultimate goal is provide for transition students "a self-sustaining industry" on school property, she said.
"The potential markets for the food products include high-end restaurants wanting local produce, farmers' markets and an on-site school store for seasonal sales to the local community," she said.

For more information, contact Melanie Jensen at (904) 724-8326 or mjensen@northfloridaschool.org or go to northfloridaschool.org. The school is at 223 Mill Creek Road.