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9th Grade Service Learning Partners with Oakland Unified School District

Every year, our freshmen engage in the Common Home Project, a service learning opportunity focused on environmental justice and sustainability. This project introduces students to the joy of serving, brings them into deeper connection with their local community, and helps them learn about community needs.

This spring semester, 24 freshmen partnered with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and CalFresh, which is the largest food program in California, providing monthly food benefits and an essential safety for low-income individuals and families, to make 700 take-home garden kits for low-income preschool families.

O’Dowd students worked over January and February to put the kits together. They included all the supplies needed for families to grow radishes and peas at home, from the seeds to the potting soil. The kits also included activity packets for preschool students to work on while their school campuses are closed, with stickers and other fun items. Teachers from CalFresh Healthy Living, a youth nutrition education program, will use these kits in their remote curriculum, helping to improve the health of California families.

“Putting together the seed kits for OUSD preschoolers allowed me to reflect on my individual impact, with unlimited potential to have a positive impact on those in my community!” said Stella Venegas ’24.

This project is the latest collaboration between O’Dowd Service Learning and Oakland Unified School District. In the fall, O’Dowd students helped create the components for 4,000 take-home garden kits for low-income elementary school students. While the pandemic has created many limitations in our traditional service learning opportunities, it has also opened up new partnerships and creative ways for our students to contribute to the community.

“We thank the students from the bottom of our hearts,” said Tuline Baykal, the CalFresh Healthy Living Program Manager. “They are helping 700 low-income OUSD preschool families learn to garden at home!”

This project would not have been possible without the extraordinary leadership of Devra Laner, O’Dowd’s Living Lab Agriculture Food Specialist, and Kate Cunnane, O’Dowd English teacher and Common Home Project Coordinator.


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