Thanks to the efforts of the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Sustainability (ECCLS), a communitywide gardening program is blooming. Rooted in the desire to share UIW’s sustainable mission, this multifaceted initiative makes tangible impacts in important ways.

A baby tree takes root thanks to the UIW team.

A baby tree takes root thanks to the UIW team.

At elementary schools in the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD), children are rolling up their sleeves to work in youth gardens.

“The program’s goal is to teach sustainability and inspire participants to leave a better ecological footprint,” says Ricardo Gonzalez, director of the ECCLS. “What better way to do that than with young people?”

Assisted by UIW students and faculty members, these little sprouts are taking part in experiential learning about topics such as plant life, wellness and nutrition, just to name a few. On the Eastside of San Antonio, ECCLS is collaborating with the Ella Austin Community Center to foster community resilience in a socioeconomically vulnerable neighborhood.

By working with nonprofit organizations that in turn work with local community members, the ECCLS can educate, assist and support the planting and harvesting of food, helping address food insecurity and empowering participants by giving them new skills.

Little sprouts learn gardening basics.Little sprouts learn gardening basics.

What’s more, the program has planted seeds for new growth. The University received the 2017 Climate Leadership Award from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and EcoAmerica Solutions Generation. With the $10,000 award, the ECCLS plans to expand programs to include a Rainbow Recycling Initiative in the Southwest Independent School District (SWISD) and establish an Eco-Friendly Anti-Bullying Student Center at an SWISD elementary school.

This research-based initiative could then potentially roll out to other schools, said Gonzalez. “Our focus is to not only to support the schools and the students, but teach about ecology, health, wellness and the importance of gardening.”