Several years ago, students in Wharton High’s Key Club created a place on campus to remember students and faculty members who had passed away. But, the quiet corner it’s tucked into doesn’t have sprinklers, so grass won’t grow, and plants planted in the “serenity garden” wither.
Over the years, it fell into disrepair. In fact, says Jennifer Bell, an English teacher at the school, “It became a weed-choked barren thing with a picnic table — not the kind of memorial garden we wanted.”
So Wharton’s “Beautification Club,” which Bell co-sponsors with fellow English teacher Lindsey Glenn, went to work.
Back in September, with the help of the school’s head custodian, Junior Cintron, club members completely overhauled the area, adding raised plant beds with drought-friendly plants.
Now it’s much improved, but members of the club think it still has a way to go. While other solutions have been tried, such as mulch (which washed away in heavy rain), it was decided that the best way to improve the space would be with artificial turf, since no water is available to keep grass alive.
The turf is expensive, so the club hopes members of the community might help to make this project happen. The turf is estimated to cost about $1,200.
She emphasizes that the area is not only a memorial, which is why it was named the serenity garden.
“We want to make it a place that is uplifting and beautiful, as a place of reflection,” she explains. “So, if you need to go and re-center yourself, it’s off the beaten path a little, so you can take a quiet moment to yourself if you’re having a rough day.”
She says that is already happening. “We’ve heard there are definitely students who have noticed the improvement and have been sitting out there if they are upset and need to take a moment to themselves.”
Bell says that the serenity garden isn’t the only project the Beautification Club has undertaken since its inception last year.
“One thing that’s striking at Wharton is that everything at the school is gray,” she says. “We felt like the lack of color and beauty was hurting morale at Wharton.”
She explains that while the club hopes to overcome the gray with some color, it’s about more than that.
“We want to boost morale and improve the overall climate around the school,” she says, explaining that the club takes on a couple of large and a couple of small projects each year. “We’ve placed anonymous Post-It notes to encourage students, we’ve made sensory bottles — also called calm-down bottles — to help autistic students, and painted murals at our on-campus preschool playground.”
To support the Wharton Beautification Club’s efforts to install artificial turf in the school’s serenity garden, contact the club’s sponsors via the school: (813) 631-4710. Checks, made out to “Wharton High School” and designated for the Beautification Club, can be dropped off at the school.