Brooke Donner recently started several gardens at Coral Way K-8 in Miami. She and a friend planted the gardens for their International Baccalaureate program community service project.
“We wanted to do something that we were interested in and that we could implement into the community,” Donner says. “We both have an interest in these ideas of sustainability and consciousness and awareness of what we take from the earth and we put into our bodies.”
The project taught young students about the importance of growing local food, eating organic and sustainability. There was a lot involved before they could get the first plant into the ground. It took considerable planning and some frustration. Donner says it was hard to get schools to agree to allow them to build the planters and work with students.
While many gardens just require clearing the ground, digging holes and plopping in a plant or seeds, Donner and her friend wanted to construct raised garden beds. Once constructed, the raised beds were populated with flowers, vegetables, fruits and herbs.
Donner, a senior at Coral Gables High School, and her friend became interested in sustainability when they took a biology class in the eighth grade at Carver Middle School.
Donner credits her biology teacher with fostering the interest by “being awesome and inspiring.” So when it came time to develop a community service project, they decided to pass on their interests to younger students.
“It’s something that we are aware of and our families are very aware of,” Donner says. “We wanted to teach younger people about it.”
Donner knows how a garden can interest kids – over the years she and her family have had gardens.
“Right now, we have an herb garden and we’ve had vegetables,” she says.
Donner does enjoy giving back to the community. In her sophomore year she volunteered at Breakthrough Miami as a tutor. She would help disadvantaged children every Saturday during the school year.
“They would give me students that were struggling and I would help them with whatever they needed,” she says. “I really enjoyed it. For me, my favorite part was to be able to sit one-on-one with the students, especially when they were doing work from their favorite class. If I was able to engage them and make the subject more interesting, they were able to (do better).”
At Coral Gables High School, Donner is editor-in-chief of highlights, the school paper.
“I’ve been working on the paper since my freshman year,” she says. “I started as staff writer, then became news editor and then editor- in-chief.”
Donner took on the role of news editor in the middle of her sophomore year and relinquished it when she became editor-in-chief. She is also co-president of the National Honor Society, which has about 500 members. Club members participate in a many community service events, both in school and in the community.
Athletics has been a big part of her high school career. This year she was co-captain of the varsity soccer team, which made it as far as the regional quarter finals. Donner was talented enough to earn a spot on the varsity team in her freshman year. She also played club soccer at Pinecrest Premier and Tropical Soccer.
As for her college plans, she says that she is not definite about what school she will attend, but she intends to study environmental science and journalism in her college career. She has been accepted by the University of Miami, Florida, North Carolina, Lewis and Clark and New College.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld