The current state of John Marshall High School's campus garden, before restoration begins. (Photo by Lillian Herbst)

Features

The Secret Garden: How Sunrise club is revitalizing green spaces at John Marshall High School

The on-campus garden at John Marshall has been neglected by former owners but has plans to be revitalized by the Sunrise club.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/lillianherbst/" target="_self">Lillian Herbst</a>

Lillian Herbst

October 5, 2022
A garden lies in the dark corners of John Marshall High School, long neglected by its former owners. Weeds grow over the decayed flowerbeds and vines strangle metal gates as they crawl onto the sidewalk. When Sunrise club at Marshall first saw the space, they thought it would be impossible to revive. 

After months of planning, Sunrise is now officially beginning the restoration of the secret garden of Marshall, with President Ingrid Hoffert and newly elected Garden Coordinator Ashot Varpetyan at the forefront of the mission.

The plan, which was first proposed in early 2022, had not been pushed into action until the 2022-2023 school year. With a green light from school administration, Sunrise club will be using club meetings and after-school volunteering to restore the garden to its former glory.

Sunrise has ambitious plans to transform the garden during the 2022-2023 school year. 

Varpetyan said Sunrise wants to create a “pollinator garden with lots of native plants, where teachers and students can visit in their free time during school.” He wants a wide variety of native plants and species to be able to access the garden.

“[Sunrise] is partnering with Black Thumb Farm to provide native plants, but we also hope to eventually introduce edible vegetables such as herbs and kale,” Varpetyan said. “Hopefully, this project will lead to more accessible green spaces on campus.”

Sunrise Club believes that an on-campus native garden will be beneficial to the school in many ways. Varpetyan mentioned that many S.E.S. (School for Environmental Studies) students have not had a garden to aid their various environment-based classes and that the garden would be immensely helpful in their program/curriculum.

Hoffert wants the garden to “give students the opportunity to be hands-on with nature at the campus, and learn how to care for the environment- especially native pollinators and plants.”

A proposed path is laid out for the garden. (Photo by Lillian Herbst)

As for the timeframe, Hoffert was unsure about how long it would take, but she would like to accomplish the clearing of the garden and hopefully plant some easily-maintained native plants this year. Although she is a senior, Hoffert said she is optimistic that in the coming years, Marshall will have full access to native plants in the garden.

Hoffert did not know the exact details of the creation of the garden, but she said that it was made by a now-retired teacher and was used as a physical aid in classrooms. However, she claimed that in recent years “it has fallen into decay, especially because of the pandemic and limited resources/students that wanted to use the space.”

So far, the garden project is still in early development. Steps have been made to create a partnership between Marshall Sunrise and Black Thumb Farm, a nonprofit organization that is focused on getting younger people interested in food sovereignty and rights. Further, Hoffert will be introducing volunteer opportunities to help out in the garden after school and at lunch in following club meetings.

Hoffert and Varpetyan both emphasized Sunrise’s commitment to on-campus sustainability and environmental awareness. This year, they are both hoping to create more events/spaces on campus where students can learn about the Sunrise Movement and how to be sustainable on campus. They said they see this garden as the first step to greater environmental activism on campus and the revitalization of green spaces at Marshall.

The garden is still far from finished, but all of Sunrise club is wholeheartedly dedicated to reviving the area and welcoming new native species. In the coming years, Marshall can look forward to a new green space on campus-promoting native Californian wildlife and the importance of sustainability.

If Marshall students are interested in joining Sunrise’s initiative to restore green spaces, the club meets every Wednesday at lunch in room 434.