New greenhouse to help disabled students at Lake Zurich High School
Lake Zurich High School debuted a greenhouse Monday geared to help older students with disabilities gain skills for everyday living and possibly horticulture-related jobs.
Potatoes, spinach, lettuce, flowers and more have been planted in the greenhouse by students in Lake Zurich High's special education transitions program. Those students graduated high school but have remained to transition to adulthood as they learn independent living skills including money management, caring for themselves and self-advocacy, along with receiving vocational training at community businesses.
Lake Zurich Unit District 95 administrators, the transitions students and village leaders formally opened the greenhouse with a celebration Monday. Student Aubrey Soukup was among those to welcome the crowd before a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
"We are so excited to begin in our new learning adventure," Soukup said.
Transitions teacher Anna Marie Bader said the school had sought a $20,000 grant through an organic seed and rice company's national competition but fell short. However, the $20,000 in startup money was donated by the privately funded District 95 Educational Foundation before the 2016-17 academic season.
"The goal really is for our students to learn about greenhouse work and nursery work and planting, besides learning how to grow food and eat new foods," Bader said.
As the guests toured the greenhouse, transitions student Kennedy Schaefges enthusiastically pointed out the produce and the flowers. Her mother, Julie, said she sees several job possibilities that could evolve for her daughter from the greenhouse.
"We do this at home also," Julie Schaefges said, "so we've been doing gardening for a long time."
Peter Nadler, special education chairman for Lake Zurich High, said it's hoped the fresh food grown in the greenhouse can be donated. He said the school wants to find an organization that would accept it.
Master gardeners from the University of Illinois Extension in Grayslake and the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe are helping Lake Zurich High with the greenhouse.
District 95 Educational Foundation Executive Director Nancy Coleman said the project deserved the $20,000 allocation.
"Everything from horticulture to entrepreneurial management," she said of what the greenhouse offers the students. "It's just endless. It's its own industry. I think it's a great opportunity for the kids."