On July 10, in a ceremony at Opelika High School, the College of Education’s renowned and respected outreach, entrepreneurial, and research project — O Grows — was awarded the Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Visionary Award. We wrote about O Grows in 2017, and did a more comprehensive story in last year’s Keystone Magazine.
The project is run with inspiration by Sean Forbes, Ph.D., who is a professor in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Foundations, Leadership, and Technology. Forbes has a research specialization in Educational Psychology. He is also down to earth, genuinely interested in others, and just easy to be around. So it’s natural that he would lead an outreach project that seeks to encompass all facets of the community. Sean is ably assisted by his wife Susie, who was also recognized by the chamber for her stalwart service to the community.
“There are several moving parts in our O Grows operation, but one of our most important projects is working with the kids from the alternative school,” Forbes said in our earlier interview. “Two or three days a week, we have a dozen or more of these students who have had a lot of frustrations in their lives, especially in terms of dealing with authority figures. Here, they see that all adults are not out to get them. They develop patience and acquire skills. Our long-range goal in working with these students is to get them engaged in social entrepreneurship. They have so much to offer, but just need to have a channel where they can develop what is best in them.”
In selecting O Grows for this recognition, the Opelika Chamber noted that the Visionary Award winner must be actively investing in the future of Opelika, they must be engaged in various organizations that promote the well-being of the citizens, and they must be involved in the teaching of future generations care and responsibility of the Opelika community.
The award was presented by Chamber president Pam Powers-Smith. She had this to say about the organization:
The winner of this award is the epitome of the Visionary award description. They invest, engage, promote, and teach future generations how to care for our community. Beginning in 2012 with a Community Garden, this program has grown from just a community garden to a training center to explore new and trendy agriculture methods such as aquaponics – where you raise fish to feed and fertilize the plants growing hydroponically. The main objective is to fight food insecurity and help beautify the city through education and growing a love of gardening locally.
They partner with the Opelika Learning Center to teach different skills and trades. They support a healthy lifestyle and give kids the opportunity to learn about healthy foods who would otherwise not have that at home. Opelika City Schools Director of Alternative Education & Student Services Steve Carson said, “O Grows provides students with a direct hands-on experience to move food from farm to fork. They allow students to hold a farmers market and food summit and expose students to various careers in agri-science, food science, and natural resources. They even offered the students an opportunity for paid internships with the Opelika Community Garden, Opelika Farmers Market, and the Community Market. I can’t say enough good things about this program.
If you haven’t yet done so, you should definitely visit the Farmers Market every Tuesday!
So we congratulate Sean and Susie on their labor of love, and for making our community a better place for all.