After graduating last spring, Francesca McKenzie '09 did not know what was next. She left campus knowing the value of community and her desire to help others. After visiting New Orleans, McKenzie says, "I knew I had to move here. There is such a rich culture here and so much opportunity for innovative work to be done in the rebuilding of this amazing city."
Finding a position through AmeriCorps, McKenzie became an Apprentice Garden Teacher at the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans. For the past seven months, she has co-taught integrated garden classes at a public charter for students K-8. She spends most of her time outside with the class in their garden, reinforcing what they are learning indoors in their science class. She is active in the local food justice movement.
McKenzie takes joy in the positive impact she is having on the life of her students.
A few months ago, McKenzie came on a Saturday to do some extra garden work and met Hollis, a fifth grader who lives nearby the school. "He came to our school a little over a year ago from another school and he could barely read. Now he is excelling in his classes and is getting his first taste at academic success," McKenzie explains.
McKenzie told Hollis a little about AmeriCorps. "He was especially interested in what other Americorps host sites were like and that you get an academic grant at the end of the year of service. I told him he should really think about it to help pay for college and he took it all in thoughtfully."
Before Hollis left he asked McKenzie what she would do after her year here. "I said I didn't know," she responded. "But that I would love to stay at the school. As he hopped on his bike he shouted at me, 'You can't leave. See you Monday.' As he sped away, I knew he was absolutely correct."
Every day she is here, she meets children like Hollis, and she's reminded of the importance of her work. "Hollis and his school and this city have become such a part of me, it would be very difficult to leave," adds McKenzie. "It was easy to find all that I wanted in life and more here."
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