Farm stand tended by teens with disabilities

August 23, 2012 10:18:39 AM PDT
It started with only six beds of vegetables six years ago. They now have 28 and looking to grow because for the boys at Maryville Academy it's giving them educational and job skills.

On the Maryville campus in Des Plaines, students with and without disabilities and volunteers are manning the farm stand.

Students are ward of the state, their faces cannot be shown. Dr. Craig Maki is the director of educational service.

"We're a non-public therapeutic day school and we work to provide services for students who cannot be provided and need different levels or types of schooling," he said.

"Students in our school are anywhere in between eleven and twenty one years of age. Wed have classrooms for students that have cognitive impaireds, traumatic brain injury, autism spectrum disorder we also have classrooms for kids with emotional, behavioral learning disabilities."

Former teacher and current volunteer Alyson Beucler started this program.

"We wanted a vocational program for the kids to teach them some job skills," Beucler said. "They get paid for working in the garden here and they do all the planting they do the weeding they do the harvesting they sell it in their farmer's market and then the money we make from that we use to start the garden for next year and we also have bought fruit trees now.

"There are probably about 25 of the kids that come out and work regularly and then they also have flower gardens in the front of the school too that they take care of."

Beucler says the program has been beneficial to these boys.

"It makes them understand more about I think money situations where you know you can talk with them about okay you made 'X' amount of money this week but you didn't make as much as last week because you didn't work as many hours," she said. "They eat so much better I mean and they try new things and they get excited about things that they planted in the garden that you know they see on their plate."

Maryville's farm stand is open every Wednesday morning.

"Last year we went up until November and last year, too, we planted some lettuce and some spinach at the end of the season," Beucler said.

For more information: www.maryvilleacademy.org/


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