Amanda Smith: Dreams, Gardens, and letters from the First Lady

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By Jamie Burgess, Assistant Yearbook Editor

The big, yellow, envelope sat there waiting to be opened.  The letter was addressed to junior Amanda Smith but the unique part was the return address: “The White House.” She flipped it over and it read ‘Fragile’ in big red letters. Realizing what it must be about, she opened it finding that her struggles to do the community some good had just gotten a lot easier.“I’m not one to really freak out about things, so I sat there really surprised and jittery,” said Smith. The envelope contained a small letter written to her and a picture of the president and the first lady; both were hand signed by the couple. When word spread that Smith had received this letter, people really wanted to know why she got it to begin with.

Back in March, she began working on a project to earn her gold award for Girl Scouts, the equivalent to an Eagle badge in Boy Scouts. Without any hesitation, she decided her project would be to create a community garden. After deciding that it would really benefit people the most if it was on school grounds, she set off to find the perfect spot. She talked to Principal Mark Neffendorf and he told her that there wasn’t enough room at Tigard high school for her to put it.

Distraught after months of searching, she wrote to Michelle Obama telling her the obstacles that she had run into while trying to create this garden. Not expecting a response, Smith sent it off and nearly forgot about it until the day she received the letter that had words of encouragement from the first lady herself. And sure enough, after that everything began to fall into place.

“I got a note in class one day saying: ‘Caring Closet after school’ so  I went there and they told me that I could put my garden in the empty space next to it! I was ready to give up but then it worked out!” After getting the letter and the land, she met with Neffendorf again and he agreed to let her use the area for her project. Now, if she can get it passed by a member of the district board, she can finally begin the first steps.

Starting in late winter, Smith and some volunteers are planning to begin putting it together. By early spring it will have two large planter boxes approximately five-feet by five-feet each, containing typical fruit and vegetable seeds. Later in the spring, things will begin to flourish and the garden will be put to good use.

If all goes as planned, the food grown in the garden will go to three different places. First, some of the fruits and vegetables will be given to the homeless, an area of service that is close to Smith’s heart. She makes it a point to help them out as much as possible and this will really benefit them because they don’t normally receive the fresh produce that others do. Secondly, produce will be donated to St. Anthony’s food bank. Third, produce will hopefully go to the school cafeteria for lunches.

After some hardships, this idea is finally being set in motion to do the community some good; but Smith can’t do it all by herself. If you want to work in the garden or get more information about the it, you can contact Amanda Smith on Facebook or email her at [email protected] Once the project begins to make progress, members of NHS can even get volunteer hours by helping out. Also, at some point this year Smith plans on getting together a composting system where all the students and faculty can put their biodegradable food scraps into special bins that can be put into the soil to help things grow.

“This is a really creative and cool idea,” said psychology teacher and NHS adviser Frank Caro. This unique idea will not only help out Smith in earning her Gold Award, it will also help out people in the community. So get involved and get this garden growing!