Girl Scout earns Gold Award through garden project at Rock Rest Elementary

MONROE – When Vickie Belcher set out to earn her Gold Award, the 17-year-old Weddington High School senior didn’t know much about gardening.

But after a few months of preparation and work, Vickie not only has her own specially designed garden to showcase – she’s helped other students learn the ins and outs of gardening, as well.

A Girl Scout from the time she was very young, Vickie has always loved the program’s special trips, camping outings and opportunity to help younger Scouts. So sticking with it until the end – and, especially, earning her Gold Award – was a no-brainer for Vickie.

When the time came to start working on her project, Vickie juggled a few ideas around. She spoke with her DECA advisor at Weddington, who suggested she contact Rock Rest Elementary School in Monroe and see if she could help them out in any way.

After meeting with school administrators, Vickie came up with a rough idea for a project – revamping the school’s courtyard to feature a garden area. In addition, Vickie also agreed to work with the school to start a gardening club for fourth- and fifth-grade students.

Vickie began working on the courtyard last November. Her improvements included adding dirt and creating two new flowerbeds along the garden, planting bulbs and laying decorative gravel along the area.

“We planted all the flowers – mainly bulbs – so (the school) wouldn’t have to worry about planting them again in the next years,” Vickie said. “We’ve got a yellow-and-purple theme going on; I thought it would look nice in the garden.”

Over the course of several months and seven different workdays, Vickie and a handful of friends and fellow members of Weddington’s National Honors Society showed up to help with her project. The Monroe Garden Club also pitched in with free seed donations.

One of the challenging things about the project, Vickie said, was the weather. It rained on several of the scheduled workdays and the unseasonably cold weather over the past couple of months also threw some kinks into her plans.

“The weather was difficult,” Vickie said. “I think it was the day after the big snow storm when we went out and laid down some rocks.”

But despite Mother Nature’s setbacks, Vickie and her fellow workers continued to put forth their best effort and the project was complete earlier this month.

To ensure her masterpiece is maintained in the years to come, Vickie also started a gardening club, which began meeting earlier this year on Mondays after school. Open to fourth- and fifth-graders, the club teaches kids the basics of planting and maintaining a garden.

“With the garden club, we really take it to the next level. People are really learning about gardening and getting interested,” Vickie said.

She added, “I loved all the time I’ve spent helping with the club. Kids are starting (to plant) seeds at home, some of the art classes made sculptures – really cute water sculptures – for (the garden). Kids are getting out in the garden and people are appreciating it. That’s one of the more touching moments for me.”

In addition to her garden-related efforts, Vickie also organized a book and supply drive that collected about 3,000 books and supply items for Rock Rest. Weddington High School held a competition to see which class could collect the most supplies and the items were donated to Rock Rest to be distributed among the different classrooms as needed.

Vickie will be officially honored for her achievements in a Girl Scouts Gold Award ceremony on May 5. Rock Rest also is celebrating Vickie’s efforts in a special dedication ceremony Thursday, April 18.

Now that she’s earned the highest merit any Girl Scout can achieve and is planning to head off to college in the fall – she recently received a full-ride scholarship to attend the University of South Carolina – Vickie said she’d love to stay involved with Girl Scouts.

“Definitely when I get to college, I would love to work with younger Girl Scout troops,” she said. “That’s something I’m really interested in doing.”

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