Lindblom students transform garden into veterans' oasis

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In an urban garden in West Englewood, vegetables now grow where a drug kingpin's house once stood. The garden itself has grown thanks to the efforts of engineering students from Lindblom Math and Science Academy.

"To offset the food hunger, the food desert issues, the food insecurity, you guys have helped us turn this corner into a bounty of green on our tables," said Cordia Pugh, project manager at Hermitage Gardens.

But there's more to this bounty, for the students saw something else in a parking lot across the street - a garden of a different kind.

The students designed it, and with generous donations and some guidance, they transformed it into a meditation garden for veterans. Pergolas stand where cars where cars were once parked. Vets have an oasis where they can sit and think, maybe grow.

"I'm just immensely thankful that they saw something, that nobody had to encourage. It came from them," said Issa Umi, a veteran.

"I'm really proud of things you have done and things you'll do in the future," said Robert Hart, another veteran.


What began as a computer design exercise became a real world project, with real world benefit.

"I think it makes them happy. It gives them a sense of dignity and pride, something they've done," said Kelim Clark, a Lindblom student.

"You feel a sense of community and connection and closeness you don't get all the time, and it's wonderful, absolutely wonderful," said Nia Gray, another Lindblom student.

What's been planted here is a seed that - over many months - has grown into immense pride for a group of students who've grown by giving back. Years hence they can pass by and say we did that.

"Are we in good hands with our young people today? Rest easy. They got this. They got this," said Lawrence Bass, a Lindblom teacher.

Bass sets the bar for his students and they keep exceeding it. He laughs that he's having way too much fun in his job.

The reward is not just seeing his students exceed their own expectations, but that other schools are looking to do what they're doing at Lindblom - get out of the classroom and make a difference in the world.

The meditation garden will be dedicated Saturday.
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