Last year Vanessa Robles went on a mission to help sexual assault survivors. For her Capstone project she created a "How to Respond to Survivors" training video for the Rockford Police Department.
Vanessa left East High School knowing her work impacted the city. But she still felt she needed to do more. For her, this work is never done because she battles this issue in her mind and heart.
"Survivors need to feel healing and receive justice. So I want to build and design a healing garden at East," Robles said when she called me this spring.
Thanks to a Ford Next Generation Learning grant East received for garden projects, I encouraged her to organize the project and get students and staff involved. With the help of the Buddies Club, students from East and Roosevelt Community Education Center turned over soil and put in over 30 volunteer hours. They planted more than four species of sunflowers. It's a flower Vanessa says needs a lot of support, but always faces the light, like survivors.
I'm proud to share that the Survivor Garden was dedicated this spring. Sierra Kellen, Family Peace Center project manager, connected with Vanessa at the garden dedication. Kellen mentioned to Vanessa that the Family Peace Center could also use a garden.
Vanessa knows that her work is important. She will tend the garden over the summer.
"I just finished my FAFSA, and I think I might have found a niche," Robles said.
Vanessa's dream of helping survivors heal through gardening is driving her to enroll in Kishwaukee College's Horticulture Program.
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