Eli Nafziger, a student at Hewitt-Trussville Middle School, was searching for a project to help earn his Eagle Scout badge when he had the idea of combining his interest in gardening with helping the exceptional education students in his own school.
“A little over a year ago, I began to look at options of what I could do for an Eagle Project,” Nafziger said
. “After spending time with some of the special education students, I decided to do a project to benefit them. I had the idea to create an outdoor space for their use at school. My idea was to have a place where they could learn to garden and where they could get outdoors and relax. I wanted the garden to be easy for the teachers to use and a safe, fun place for the students to enjoy.”
Nafziger took the idea to Principal Phyllis Faust. She and the special education teachers liked it.
“In fact, they went ahead and started the garden themselves by planting raised beds, which are full of vegetables right now,” Nafziger said. “My portion of the project was to enhance the garden by installing a gardening shed, paved walkway and landscaping. I am also adding some equipment to the garden, such as a wheelbarrow and hand tools.”
Nafziger said the approval process for Eagle projects is lengthy, so it took a few months for him to complete all the required steps. He was able to raise money for the project by working on cleanup jobs from the tornadoes that struck Trussville in January. The scout was finally able to begin work May 5. So far, with the help of his Boy Scout troop, Troop 915 sponsored by the Trussville Fire Department, they have installed the gardening shed and a wheelchair accessible brick pathway to the shed. On his final work day, he plans to do some landscaping and add some more basic gardening tools to finish the project.
“This project not only provided much needed storage, but it also allowed wheelchair access for our students,” Faust said. “Eli’s project was the finishing touch to a great idea. When we see our students working to improve the quality of life and education for their fellow students, it is extremely gratifying.”
Nafziger said he hopes the project will provide the school and special education program with a great space for outdoor learning.
“The project has definitely been a learning experience for me since I have never taken on anything this big before,” he said. “I am grateful to Troop 915, the Trussville Fire Department, my family and the HTMS administration for helping me make this idea a reality.”