Pacifica teen wins award for creating high school garden 

Next week 17-year-old Naftali Moed of Pacifica’s Oceana High School will receive $36,000 for creating a garden at his school.

Moed got the idea after attending a weeklong 2009 food conference in Maine called Rooted in Community.

“It spurred a larger interest and awareness about food-related issues, environmental issues, and health issues involved with processed foods,” Moed said.

He rallied student and teacher support and wrote five grant applications that resulted in nearly $13,000 in funding for the now-flourishing garden.

The award money can either be used for a college scholarship or to further teens’ visions for making the world a better place. About 50 percent of teens typically finance current or future projects and 50 percent apply it toward college, said Nicole Miller, executive director of the Helen Diller Family Foundation, which awarded the money.

Moed, who has also won the Cox Conserves Heroes Award for his work, said he will put $1,000 into his garden and the rest into his college fund.

The 150-by-150-foot garden — formerly an empty gravel lot — is now lined with Swiss chard, Russian kale, collard greens, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, various squash, and kohlrabi. There are also  chickens, compost, a tool shed, a nursery and pergola.

Eggs are sold to raise money for the chickens, and food is used in new cooking and nutrition classes or sent home with students or teachers who can’t afford organic produce, Moed said.

The garden has become a focal point of school life, used by geometry students who apply math to building projects, by English students to write poetry, by environmental science classes to study sustainable agriculture and irrigation, and even as a hangout.

Visible through a wall of windows on one side of the school cafeteria, the garden is a place where students can complete their required 25 hours of community service after school, during summer and on Saturdays, Principal Caro Pemberton said.

“They’re out there doing everything from weeding to working on irrigation systems to painting a chicken coop to gathering eggs to planting seeds to turning compost,” Pemberton said. “It’s an opportunity for kids to really do something and see the results.”

But before other schools create garden projects, Pemberton said, they should consider the work it takes. Moed’s dedication and charisma, which attracted other kids to help, have been key to the garden’s success, she said.

“There’s not many adolescents I know who have the ability to envision something in a big way and at the same time understand what are the practical steps,” she said. “He’s a dreamer but amazingly mature and practical about his dreaming.”

The question facing school officials now is how to keep the garden alive after Moed’s gone. Pemberton said she hopes to find new student leaders before Moed finishes school next June.

“The only other option is to not let him graduate,” she said. “We’re considering it.”

How the garden grew

$1,000 from Home Depot and National Garden Association

$4,000 from San Mateo County Health Services

$1,000 from Oram Environment and Urban Life Foundation

$4,000 from Lowe’s Community Fund

$1,000 from Oceana Parent Teacher Association

$1,200 through KTVU (Ch. 2)

$5,000 more could come from KTVU if Moed receives enough votes online

Source: Naftali Moed

This story was corrected Sept. 2, 2011. The story originally said the $36,000 grant was from the International Diller Teen Initiative with a 70/30 ratio between future projects and college costs. The grant was actually from the related Helen Diller Family Foundation and the ratio between future projects and college costs is 50/50.

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Niko Kyriakou

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