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CCIU students grow crops and build partnerships within the county

Coatesville, PA – Horticulture students at the Chester County Intermediate Unit’s (CCIU) Learning Center and Child & Career Development Center (CCDC) are growing in more ways than one this school year.

“We are so excited to further our relationship and work with Chester County Food Bank. For years we have grown produce in our garden boxes, which has always gone to the culinary shop at our campus,” said Mike Walls, horticulture instructor at the CCIU Learning Center. “This year, we are expanding our reach. Students are working with growers to start seedlings and grow lettuces in the aquaponics systems. Once harvested, the lettuce is delivered to food pantries in Coatesville.”

Along with growing and donating the lettuce, students have also been arranging flower bouquets to accompany their deliveries to the food banks.

“We start by figuring out what colors we want for the flowers, then we grow them and make the arrangements. Helping others makes me feel wonderful!” explained Karina Castaneda, CCIU Learning Center student.

The idea to grow produce in the greenhouse and partner with the Chester County Food Bank came from a CCIU-wide organizational goal. Not only does this initiative help the community-at-large, it also has many benefits for the students.

“Students learn best through authentic tasks and are able to transfer their learned social skills by working with community partners. The students can see the direct benefit to the community they serve,” explained Kristin Gallahan, CCIU Learning Center principal. “The result is hands-on learning for students with the added bonus of our community receiving fresh produce that is grown locally.

The students’ hard work and dedication to harvest and deliver produce they have grown themselves has paid off twice so far this school year, and they don’t plan to stop there. Staff and students have plans to work collaboratively with the food banks and continue the donations throughout the year.

Student Anthony Johnson has been diligently helping with the process and is looking forward to all that is to come, “I’m proud to be helping people, it makes me feel good,” he said.

Students at the Learning Center spend half of their school day in academic classes and the other half in their pre-vocational shop program. The academic program offers core subject areas, including: language arts, social studies, science and mathematics that are designed to meet the learning and educational needs of students. Additionally, eleventh and twelfth grade students have an opportunity to participate in a work experience program.

Students from 29 school districts, including all 12 in Chester County, attend the Chester County Learning Center. For more information, visit


Photo Caption: Horticulture student Owen Ziglar harvests the lettuce he and his classmates grew to donate to the Chester County Food Bank.