College of Agriculture

Planting Hope, Harvesting Joy

Announced on: Friday, Dec. 21, 2018

It wasn’t your typical college final. The Fall 2018 Agricultural Leadership class did require late-night cramming, but it was piles of gifts and wrapping paper, rather than books and notes, that these students had to work through. On the day of the final itself, Scantrons, calculators and No. 2 pencils gave way to Santa Claus, cookies, and hundreds of children looking for some holiday cheer, which the AGRI 380A students were more than happy to deliver.

What started as a simple, if ambitious, community service project to provide holiday gifts to 30 underprivileged children throughout Butte County became a massive effort in the wake of the Camp Fire.

Junior agricultural education major Samantha Bright said, “We set a goal for ourselves to raise $6,000 to serve 30 kids, then after the fire the needs changed, and the organization we had been planning to work with had to suspend their program.”

Meanwhile, the donations to the class’ Planting Hope, Harvesting Joy project kept pouring in. More than $35,000 in toys, blankets, backpacks, gift cards, and cash arrived. Instead of finding another organization to work with, the class decided to reach out directly to schools and families impacted by the Camp Fire, and invite them to a distribution event at the University Farm on Tuesday, December 18, the day and time of the class’ scheduled final.

“It spawned into something bigger than we ever anticipated, and it’s been a learning process for sure,” Bright said. “But I think it’s been really fulfilling and it has certainly turned into a lot more than we thought it was going to.”

Two hundred fifty six students from Paradise elementary schools, along with 32 additional families, attended the event at the University Farm Pavilion, where they decorated cookies, visited with Santa, and played holiday-themed games while AGRI 380A students and volunteers compiled sets of gifts and gift cards for each participant. An additional 33 teenagers from Paradise attended to spend time together and receive gift certificates from the class.

“It was honestly the best version of collaboration and group work I’ve been a part of,” senior agricultural education major Matt Bongiovanni said. “It wasn’t just the usual situation where a few volunteers do the bulk of the work. Everyone jumped in and helped out, including lots of professors and students who aren’t even in our class. I think people were really inspired by the project.”

Agricultural Leadership instructor Alyssa Schager said the project drove home the concepts that students learned throughout the semester.

“Leadership is ultimately about making a difference in people’s lives. I’m proud of our students for taking total ownership of this project, and now they have the satisfaction of seeing the joy in these children's faces and knowing they truly are making a difference,” Schager said.

This article was originally published in Chico State Today