The student news site of Coral Gables Senior High School


The student news site of Coral Gables Senior High School


The student news site of Coral Gables Senior High School


The Garden Project Sprouts Sustainability and Mindfulness

Planting the seed of sustainability at Coral Gables Senior High, The Garden Project thrives during its 3rd year of service
Anastasia Sanders
New club co-presidents, Olivia Russo (right) and Paz Chico (left) celebrate their first meeting of The Gables Garden Project as they clean up trash.


Even after the bell rings out at 2:20 pm, students rush to destinations on campus, where the melting pot of after school activities allows Gables students to further bond. In the outdoor halls, a smell of dirt rises, where students are hard at work with their gloved hands and small shovels. The efforts of these gardeners is marked with the many herbs, flowers and plants that nurture passersby with its calming sights.

Pairing education and sustainability, the Garden Project is Gables’ epitome of incorporating beauty with mindfulness and accessibility. Starting as a seed of ideas, it was able to blossom into a fruitful and meaningful club, with a recent change in leaders blooming new ideas. The Garden Project is now in fresh soil, adapting well and finding new incentives to grow in this school year.

Members of The Garden Club use their shovels to scoop soil into pots that will be used for planting in future meetings. (Anastasia Sanders)

Towards the middle of their sophomore year in 2021, alumni Lucia Chico and Marina Devine-Guzman started developing the idea for The Garden Project. Already the idea went hand in hand with their interest in gardening and spreading environmental awareness. After having gone over the detriments of large scale agriculture in their AP Human Geography class, they were intrigued; their teacher, Ms. Cosgrove, mentioned that some ways to combat the problem was by establishing small urban agriculture, which is what got Lucia Chico and Devine-Guzman hooked on the idea of making a garden in Gables.

“This sparked the idea to teach others about how they can create a sustainable environment, but in your own community. So they wanted to take a more rundown part of Gables and build a garden there, where there’s now a mental health garden and a butterfly garden” sophomore Olivia Russo said.

Before being able to establish The Garden Project, Lucia Chico and Devine-Guzman had to find a sponsor, sending them through the halls to the IB office, where they discussed their plans with IB counselor Ms. Lezcano. To this day, she continues to serve as a guide for the project’s coordination, which is a sub branch of Gables’ own Political Activism and Civic Engagement club, rather than a stand-alone club. Having confirmed a spot on Gables’ expansive list of activities, the co-presidents began running the fresh and innovative agriculture-inspired club.

“Marina and I went to a PTA board meeting to pitch in our idea, because we had heard that they had been wanting to find some type of garden for the school. They loved it, and put us in contact with Ms. Lezcano to sponsor the project and give us our first grant to get the project going,” alumn Lucia Chico said.

The Garden Project was nourished not only with the support of Devine-Guzman, Lucia Chico and the volunteers, but also with the consideration of Gables’ supportive PTA, who provide great assistance. The guidance of sponsor Ms. Lezcano has brought a well-planned project about, allowing for the longtime fertility of The Garden Project and its gestation. A source of information and knowledge, Jackie Kellogg, a permaculture expert and a friend of the Gables community is a vital player in keeping the project going, with her distinct prowess leading Gables’ students by example.

“[Paz and I] have always been super interested in gardening, and we’re super big advocates for the environment, so we were glad to have such an opportunity to lead the club. There’s also the benefit of being a club board member, which not only looks good education wise, but it also lets us further do something good for our planet. We wanted to let [Lucia and Marina] know that their project was going to be in good hands” sophomore Olivia Russo said.

Once the founders of The Garden Project left Gables as part of the graduating class of 2023, they strived to maintain the legacy and preservation of the gardens and the club itself. Chico and Devine-Guzman handed the honor to Paz Chico and Olivia Russo, the next set of co-presidents. Currently sophomores in the IB program at Gables, the two best friends push to uphold past accomplishments of the club and expand it, a new season for the garden.

“Paz and Olivia are a dynamic duo – they both have skills that compliment each other really well, and they are the perfect age to grow into strong leaders. Marina and I chose them to lead the project, because they had been active members in their freshman year, and because they had been exposed to the project in the years prior. Plus, the both loved the project dearly, and they are already making me so proud” alumn Lucia Chico said.

Having seen a new shift of presidents, The Garden Project has a lot of plans underway, with new gardens sprouting from the ground with the help of student volunteers who endeavor on beautifying the school. Putting on their gloves to dig out trash from the ground, the club members attended their first meeting on Oct. 19, 2023, tilling the soil for the prosperity of the new 2023-2034 school year. Working as a group, they laid the soil that would serve as the foundation for future projects.

Club members discuss the construction of the spiral garden, a new feature of The Garden Project. (Anastasia Sanders)

“Our first event was where we cleaned up the garden from its horrible state, and now we are moving forward into planting the Bromeliads and herbs in the paths and in the herb tower we built in our first event” sophomore Paz Chico said.

With intentions of raising awareness and community involvement, Russo and Chico have brainstormed heavily on different opportunities to bring to the volunteers. Those who attend are rewarded with community service hours for their dedication. With bright sights ahead of them, the club leaders hope to bring these gardeners on an educational field trip to Key Biscayne. They look forward to adding informational QR codes near the plants in the garden for curious students. Gables students who might be trudging through the halls may take a moment to enjoy the peaceful sight, finding a gem hidden in an everyday scene.

“We’re thinking of doing a lot of things so that Gables students can appreciate the garden and what it can help you with. I’m super grateful that Olivia and I are co-presidents and am glad that we’ll be able to do a lot of more things throughout these next years” sophomore Paz Chico said.

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About the Contributors
Beatrice Stampino-Strain
Beatrice Stampino-Strain, CavsConnect Staff Writer
Beatrice Stampino-Strain is a sophomore in the International Baccalaureate program at Coral Gables Senior High. Following an insightful year in CavsTV, she has now started as a Staff Writer for CavsConnect, looking forward to new writing experiences. Partaking in various clubs, she serves on the boards of the International Baccalaureate Honor Society and Key Club, while also being the Vice President of the Class of 2026. More often than not, she can be seen talking to her friends or reading a book, though not at the same time (she has tried). Always wanting to bond with people, Beatrice finds herself delving into music, literature and television shows as a form of discovery to fuel her expansive curiosity of understanding. She enjoys the unsteadiness of life despite its struggle, and is always anticipating what it will bring to her next.
Anastasia Sanders
Anastasia Sanders, CavsTV Staff
Anastasia Sanders is a sophomore in the International Baccalaureate program. She is excited to jump into her first year in CavsTV and get the chance to work with new people. You can usually find her at the beach with a book in her hand or cooking something up in her kitchen. Anastasia has practiced a total of seven sports throughout the last five years. She is looking forward to becoming a part of the CavsTV family.
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