BISBEE, Ariz. — Bisbee High School is buzzing with activity these days as a seven-member team from
AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps has agreed to devote eight weeks of
time to help spruce up the school with a paint job, grounds work, as well as laying out the
community garden and other landscaping that is a long-term vision for principal Lisa Holland.
Thanks to Darcy Tessman, with the Arizona 4-H Club youth development office in Cochise
County, she now has a team ready and willing to do the work.
Holland is more than excited about getting the extra help in a time when funds are tight and staff
time to keep up with maintenance even tighter. So, NCCC volunteers seemed the way to get the
needed labor to kick start some long-awaited projects, even if she only has them until July 13.
“We establish projects for them to work on, whether it be to work on the garden projects or to help
clean and paint the campus,” added Holland. “They will also be helping us put in a new lab as
part of the Joint Technical Education District program.”
Holland is putting the team members up in the Culinary Arts Classroom on campus so they can
use the kitchen and have room to roll out their sleeping bags, and allows them to use the
showers in the gym.
The NCCC team members have moved the roses to a different location, set up a veggie garden,
painted breezeway poles and lettered character words on them and will paint certain
classrooms, she said.
The BHS Alumni Association has also come into the picture by donating funds for new trophy
cases. The NCCC team will be pulling out lockers to make room for the new cases, said Holland.
Tessman will train the NCCC volunteers how to refurbish bicycles and create picnic tables from
pallets in an effort to introduce ideas to recycle different things. Once the team has the knowhow, they’ll be able to teach the students, noted team leader Lindsey Pettit.
“Tessman is coming up with a lot of new and innovative ways to keep the kids in positive and
productive activities after school,” said Pettit.
“And it helps create that spark of entrepreneurship and to take pride in their craft,” noted Jacob
Atkins, from Brunswick, Maine. He took a year off from school to be a part of AmeriCorps. “It
gives you time to think and kind of prioritize what you’d like to do as a career.”
One of the best things about being in the corps is that the students come from across the country
and have varying interests in career choices. However, according to Atkins, and Pettit, who is
from Satellite Beach, Fla., what they learn on the ground working in various communities is not
only worthwhile education-wise, but personally. They get to make a difference in the lives
of complete strangers.
Pettit was pleased to be bringing a new face to the old school and hoped the students would
enjoy the new gardens and fresh paint.
Atkins, who acts as the media specialist, always wanted to come west and jumped at the
chance to see southeastern Arizona and encounter some of the cross-culture in the border area
of the “wild, wild west.” ”It’s my call of duty. I wanted to serve the communities in my own country
and put my hands in different service projects. AmeriCorps is an appetizer of many types of
service programs. So it helped me solidify my own interests, which will probably fall
under social work.”
Anyone 18 to 24 years old can enter the program Americorps offers, said Pettit, a college
graduate. In does not matter if one has no college, some college or a degree. Two of her current
teammates came right out of high school.
Atkins learned about AmeriCorps while he was in high school, so it was something he kept in
the back of his mind as a possible activity when he went to college.
“We have been working with working on grants to help us with our initial idea of a sustainable
garden. This is a pretty big project and it will take a number of years to come to fruition,” said
Holland. “We received $4,500 from the Cochise County Foundation and then another $12,000
from the Arizona Forestry Service. The forestry grant will be used to create more of a mesquite-type orchard to prevent soil erosion, provide a habitat for animals that can then be identified and studied and for our student population to enjoy the campus a little bit more.”
The way Holland sees it, the new gardens — one for veggies, one for pollination (flowers) and
the mini-forest — will provide the students with valuable experience in science, math,
construction, marketing and sales, and could point to new possibilities in careers not considered
before. It also includes partnering with U of A students who can show BHS students how research
is performed even in small areas.
“When we get the mesquite forest going, we’ll be gathering the bean pods and making mesquite
flour, and we can also market the mesquite wood,” she added. “But, right now we’re just in
the starting phase.”
“It also makes the school more visibly appealing for our students and our stakeholders,” added
Holland, who noted how much wear and tear a school takes over the year.
Holland’s efforts and those of many others will maybe make a student take a look around at the difference a group of strangers made over the summer and literally, stop and smell the roses.