The Ohio State University at Marion

​Campus group partners with schools on urban gardening

Officially formed in autumn 2016, Ohio State Marion's Rotaract student group has adopted service as its core mission. The group wasted no time rolling up its sleeves to help others by cleaning and prepping community garden boxes at Marion City Schools for the long winter.

Rotaract is a Rotary service club for individuals 18 to 30 years of age. A group of Ohio State Marion students formed the group under the sponsorship of the Marion Rotary Club.

Now that the club has completed clean up of the raised beds, the plan would be for the schools’ students to become gardeners in concert with Rotaract and other volunteers, giving the schools and students more ownership of the process and turning the raised beds into learning opportunities. The Rotaract Club is working with Marion City Schools’ Wellness Coordinator, Mariann Wright, who said a partnership with Ohio State Marion and the Rotaract Club “was meant to be.”

Club members recently gathered and spread leaf mulch on the 27 beds at McKinley, Garfield, Taft, Hayes, and George Washington elementary schools.

“It was a rewarding experience and very tactile,” said club secretary/treasurer, Amanda deJonge, a junior communications major at Ohio State Marion. “I felt like we were making a positive difference, doing something that needed to be done in the community—and it set the tone for the kinds of things we plan to do in the future.”

Ben Weber, a freshman business major, had similar thoughts. “It was fun. I thought it was worth it, making an impact in the community.”

The club is working with Ohio State extension agent Tim Barnes and former Epworth Pre-School and Daycare Director Robin Rick to develop next steps for the garden beds. Marion City Schools’ Wellness Coordinator Wright said her office has obtained one grant and hopes to obtain another to enhance the gardening program. Now that the beds have been “put to bed” for the winter, Wright plans to convene a meeting with her staff and the growing list of volunteers including the Rotaract Club, Marion Harding’s Interact Club, and Ohio State Extension to coordinate next steps for the gardens.