Since 2019, students under the guidance of physical education teacher Mark Pienciak and guidance counselor Anthony Belfiore have seen the Hamilton High School West Garden Club bloom.

Pienciak and Belfiore created the club with the mission was to create a committee focused on their school environment and beautification of school grounds.

Hamilton High West Garden Club

The Hamilton High Garden Club. Front Row: Moriah Lightner, Nataly Leon Suquitana, Karla Gonzalez Mora, Ava Larussa, Katherine Jaramillo, Paige Morales, Mayaliz Jimenez, Olivia Astbury, Marvelous Obasola, Goodness Alabi, Lounaidy Augustin, Christopher Pineda, Quincy Moss. Back Row: Teacher Mark Pienciak, Andrew Carrol, Leilani Santiago, Victoria AvilaPatino, Miranda Sommer, Daliana Leon, Michael Killian, Michael Matay, Alberto Avila-Perez, Henry Fanders, Adam Taha, Mario Palazzone. (Photo courtesy of Laura Geltch.)

The first project was to create an arbor in the original part of the school courtyard, which was built in 1930. With the support of principal Brian Smith, the club consulted with Rosanna Innes from the Rutgers Master Gardeners of New Jersey, and Amy Ricco, horticulture president of Mercer County Community College, to create a second courtyard. Technology teacher. Jesse Smith volunteered his time to create a three dimensional rendering of the Hamilton West 1957 courtyard to aid in the creation of a new green space.

Through a Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant, the school purchased materials to build benches, an outdoor whiteboard, gardening tools, and a shed for storage. West Woodshop teacher Matthew Palmere and his students constructed 10 benches to be placed in the outdoor classroom space. The guidance department and the Hamilton Environmental Youth Club organized opportunities for students to clear outdoor space and make improvements to the fish pond.

The Hamilton High School West Garden Club was established in the spring of 2019. One of the first projects was to create a flower garden where the club could grow flowers for cut arrangements.

Post pandemic, the Garden Club has grown in popularity. Fifty-three students took part in a recent project, and students have logged more than 50 hours of community service with HHW Garden Club projects. Junior Michael Killian is working on an Eagle Scout project in the school garden where he is close to completing a walk-in greenhouse.

“It is wonderful to see how the school grounds of Hamilton High School West have transformed, thanks to advisement of Mr. Pienciak and Mr. Belfiore, and all of the students in the Garden Club. The club is creating a beautiful outside environment to look at and learn in for everyone at the school. Their work is also a wonderful example of the collaboration between our staff, students, and outside organizations,” said Scott Rocco, Hamilton’s superintendent of schools.

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