A Community’s Vision for Inclusivity with Rededication of the George Key School Garden

A Community’s Vision for Inclusivity with Rededication of the George Key Garden

The rededication of the George Key Schoool garden was a heartwarming celebration of community spirit and collective effort, embodying the motto of “Presume Competence.” Principal Rebecca Allan eloquently captured the essence of this philosophy, stating, “It takes a village to raise a child. If that is true, I would say that it takes a community to raise a school.” Indeed, the George Key and Venture Academy community exemplifies this sentiment through their dedication to serving students with complex health and learning needs.

The garden dedication ceremony highlighted a remarkable journey of transformation. About a year and a half ago, Linda Badillo of the Del Norte Garden Club approached the school with a vision for revitalizing the garden, initially established by the club in 2015. Linda’s dream was to create an inclusive space where all students, including those in wheelchairs, could interact with nature. This meant designing ADA-compliant planters, providing ample shade for students sensitive to high temperatures, and selecting flowers that cater to various sensory needs.

Principal Allan recalled her initial skepticism about funding such an ambitious project, but Linda’s determination was unwavering. Through grant writing and generous donations, Linda not only secured the necessary funds but also garnered support from volunteers and local businesses. Home Depot contributed materials and labor, UCI Master Gardeners provided expertise, and REI Construction offered both time and a substantial discount to create the garden’s shade structures. A fundraiser dinner hosted by Oceans and Earth restaurant in Yorba Linda raised approximately $10,000, further fueling the project’s success.

The result is a garden meticulously designed to cater to the diverse needs of the students. Every color, material, and plant was chosen with care, ensuring that the garden is not only beautiful but also functional and therapeutic. Principal Allan emphasized the forward-thinking nature of George Key, whose visionary quote, “I have three things to do…give my fellow man a golden memory for his yesterday, a song for his today, and a hope for his tomorrow,” continues to inspire the school’s mission.

A poignant moment of the dedication ceremony was the participation of a student, Salma Montes, who led the Pledge of Allegiance using assistive technology, alongside musical performances from George Key’s preschool class and the Venture Academy Choir. Superintendent Dr. Alex Cherniss and Executive Director of Special Education Gwen Redira addressed the attendees, offering words of praise to the students, staff, and community

The garden stands as a testament to the combined efforts of a caring community, driven by the belief in the potential of every child. As Helen Keller once said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” The George Key garden, born from the hearts of many, now offers a place of peace, learning, and growth for all its students.

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