Silver Sands School Celebrates Grand Opening of the GROWTH House

Silver Sands School Celebrates Grand Opening of the GROWTH House

Silver Sands School celebrated the grand opening of the GROWTH House, an on-campus horticulture program, with a Ribbon Cutting and Reception on Friday, September 28, 2018.  Made possible by a grant from IMPACT 100 Northwest Florida (NWF), and in partnership with the Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation (OPSF), Choctaw Basin Alliance (CBA), and UF/IFAS extension office, the GROWTH House will allow students with significant cognitive impairments and physical disabilities to work alongside community partners to grow plants and vegetables. Featuring a state-of-the-art greenhouse with hydroponic and aquaponic (utilizing live fish to naturally fertilize crops) systems for growing plants, this program seeks to improve the student’s lives socially while teaching them valuable work-related skills.

Jon Williams, Silver Sands Principal, opened up the presentation by thanking the representatives from Impact 100 NWF. “First, last, and forever, we thank IMPACT 100 NWF.  Ladies your organization is first class all the way around and not only is our school better for it but so am I personally and professionally and so is our community!  We love you!  Thank you!”

Williams recognized the Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation for being “an arm of our School District that is all about students and we appreciate you being all about OUR students too by helping us obtain this grant. Thanks also to our School Board members and Superintendent of Schools, Mary Beth Jackson, for helping us realize this dream. Specific thanks to Mrs. Melissa Thrush, who, along with our teacher, Beth Wright, pushed us to apply for this grant. The School District Maintenance and Facilities and our school custodians are also to be commended for doing some heavy lifting on this project. They are amazingly dedicated to this school and these students. Lots of hours were put in by them to get us here. Thanks to our staff for championing this effort and for having the vision. These people adore our students and advocate for them in words but most especially in deeds every single day. It is an honor to work with you!  Special thanks to teacher Dan Cheon for being the brains behind this vision. Your incredible intelligence and skill are only outmatched by your good heart sir. Our kids already love growing with Mr. Dan and they are going to enjoy it a lot more here soon using aquaponics methods.” 

D.L. Curtis Construction stepped in and oversaw the project for Surenuff Agriculture, the GROWTH House installer, and Williams thanked Roy Curtis personally for being there when they needed them the most. He also thanked the UF/IFAS Okaloosa/Walton Extension Office’s Master Gardeners and the Choctaw Basin Alliance. “Such amazing partners we have in both organizations,” said Williams.

The individuals responsible for setting up the reception were also recognized along with Liza Jackson Preparatory School who he said, “are to be commended for their service to our school and students.” 

“Today is really just the end of a phase,” said Williams.  “The GROWTH House has been built.  But I think you all can join me in finishing this next popular phrase......’If you Build it.......they will come.’   Which brings us to phase two.  Phase two is where the fun happens...we want you to come grow with us.  We want you to tell your friends, family, and the whole community to come grow with us.  This project is not about the prettiest flowers or the prize-winning fruits and vegetables. That’s the goals of other people, people who are not as unique as we are.  People that might forget the value of flaws and imperfections.  We like planting because we appreciate what it means to need a little more help, a little more special attention, and often a different approach.  Yeah, it gets a little dirty at times and you find yourself making mistakes you then have to fix.... and real growth means there will problems to overcome. But that is who we are and what we are about here at Silver Sands School. This project is not just about student growth, even though that will most certainly occur. It is about all of us!  It is about you building relationships with these students because they are people in your community and they yearn to spend time with you.  They need this community to help them GROW as people and in the process, you will grow too.  So the IMPACT is not in horticulture...the IMPACT will be seen and felt through people coming out and growing alongside our kids and if you are not sure how that benefits you. then I am now certain you need to spend a little time with us. Cause these kids will help you learn about your heart, learn about your soul... they will help you clear your mind of the day to day dramas, so you can pay attention to the things that are real, true, and that ultimately matter.  Trust me, you will be a better person for it in the long run if you come GROW with us.”