‘Community Oasis’ to be built at Central High School

Published in the July 6 – 19, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Staff Report

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Photo by Dave Allen
A Community Oasis will be built at Central High School by the Leadership Morgan Hill Class of 2016.

The Leadership Morgan Hill Class of 2016 wants to help make the Loritta Bonfante Johnson Education Center, home of Central High School, a more visually appealing campus. Its members are creating a “Community Oasis” garden-like setting on the site that students and residents in the surrounding neighborhood can enjoy.

“Our Leadership class wanted to make a difference at a school where many of our at-risk youth are given a second chance to graduate,” said Dave Allen, co-chair of the project. “Our goal is to recognize and honor their efforts by creating an environment that promotes pride for the students and surrounding community.”

When completed in September, the Community Oasis will include educational signs, plants and garden features that can serve as an outdoor classroom for the students and provide a one-half acre park setting in a neighborhood of new homes that lack any nearby parks. Each year the incoming Leadership Morgan Hill class decides on a worthy community project. Previous projects include the installation of stage lighting for the Downtown Amphitheater and a community service video promoting Morgan Hill to businesses.

This year’s class of 19 students decided on this project because they wanted to transform an unsightly barren area around an old water tank structure into something that Central students and the surrounding Madrone residents in north Morgan Hill could be proud of. Measure G, a bond initiative which passed in the November 2012 election, enabled the Morgan Hill Unified School District to finance technology and facility improvements, including renovating and modernizing the old Burnett Elementary School site, which now houses Central Continuation High School.

“While the school’s physical premises were much improved, the school’s grounds included an area which remained underutilized and is frankly an neighborhood eyesore,” Allen said.

The school district has been involved in this project from the start, he said.

“As part of the selection process, I reached out to the various members of the community including Steve Betando, the district’s superintendent, for ideas. Steve introduced me to Vera Gomes, a long-time Morgan Hill resident and principal at Central. She suggested creating an educational garden park setting that would be used by both the students and community. My classmates quickly agreed to tackle this ambitious project.”

While the district is not providing funding for the project, it has been supportive. Casino Fajardo, the school district’s director of construction and modernization, along with Nathan Thome, an architect and Leadership Morgan Hill program graduate, assisted in the initial planning process and have provided guidance. In addition to suggesting the initial project concept, Gomes has been instrumental in working with the Leadership class by lining up in-kind donations from Tilton Ranch and securing a $2,500 grant which will be used to purchase benches for the project.

“Once completed, the school district and the students and the surrounding community will have access to a garden setting for an outdoor classroom where once stood an eyesore next to an attractive school and brand new neighborhood,” Allen said.

The Community Oasis project will have three main educational components: water conservation, environmental and agricultural sustainability.
The planning and fundraising for the Community Oasis project has been moving forward during the past several months since the class started in January. Construction is expected to begin Aug. 15. A boost came when Chris Houle, owner of Houle L/M Inc., agreed to donate the labor to complete the basic landscaping. Local business owner Frank Léal is providing the fencing for the project. Enough funds have been raised to purchase the landscaping materials. Additional funds are still needed for good quality fencing, said Margaret McCann, a member of the class.

“To give a professional finish to the project, the dilapidated fence currently standing will be replaced with high quality wrought iron fencing,” she said. “If you drive down Tilton Avenue, you will see the banner announcing the plans attached to the fencing at Central High.”

The class is conducting two fundraising campaigns that the community can participate in to complete the project, she said. The first is a personalized engraved brick campaign called “Paving the Way to Success” to be placed permanently at the oasis. Each commemorative brick costs $100 and will pay for about five feet of fencing. This campaign runs until July 7. To participate go to www.engravedbricks.com/campaign/leadershipmh.

The second fundraiser is an afternoon of wood-fired pizzas, music and wine pairings at the Sycamore Creek Vineyards on Uvas Road on Sunday, Aug. 7. Tickets at $35 per person for this event can be purchased by calling (408) 779.473 or online at events@sycamorecreekvineyards.com.
“This is what Leadership Morgan Hill is all about,” McCann said. “It’s about creating a better place to live, while bringing awareness of the importance of community participation to the public at large and, to the men and women who are part of the nine-month program.

The Community Oasis ribbon-cutting ceremony, Sunday Sept. 18, will be Leadership Morgan Hill’s opportunity to thank the community for its support and to showcase what can be accomplished by a small group when they have a dream and the strong community support behind them to see it come true, she said.

For more information about Leadership Morgan Hill, please visit www.leadershipmorganhill.org. Additional information can be found on the Class of 2016’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LeadershipMH2016/.