BENTON HARBOR A group of students in Benton Harbor is celebrating success. The Opportunity Center is a program dedicated to revitalizing the Benton Harbor community, and a small group of students within took it upon themselves to break ground on and maintain an urban farm.
"I really had a hard life. I've been doing things I ain't [sic] supposed to. I really had a rough life coming up, but right now this program meant a lot. Because at first, I saw no future, but now I see a future. So, it really meant a lot to me," said Lamar Moody, a graduate from the program.
Six students graduated from the Opportunity Center Wednesday, but more than 20 have completed the program in its yearlong existence. Those graduates spent their time learning about agriculture and landscaping, while getting hands-on skills at a farm they created.
"My favorite part of the program was really basically just working on the land and really coming up with a business goal. We finna [sic] propose a grant and trying to come up with a business, so we can do something for the community," said Moody.
Another student, Adam Marsee said, "to beautify land, and to bring a community together," is why he participated.
"The garden is for the community it's not just for us. We want to bring people in as an advisory board, just to help the community that's also a big part of what we do here," said Marsee.
The project was made possible through community donations. Using those funds, students and faculty cleared plots of land to create 4 X 16 raised beds with fruit and vegetable seeds. Participants plan to donate the food in the future.
"All of the fruits and vegetables that are grown out of all of these boxes can be sold at the farmer's market in Benton Harbor. And all of the students have decided to form a co-op, an entrepreneurial business of their own so that when they grow the fruits and vegetables here, they can sell it at the Benton Harbor Farmer's Market," said Andrea Grabemeyer, the Director of the Opportunity Center.
Program leaders and even the graduates themselves, have high expectations.
"Graduating from this class, that's put a bright light in my future," said Marsee.
"I feel like I make a difference because things, because people just walk around and there's a lot of lands in Benton Harbor that ain't [sic] really getting used. And I seen [sic] like we trying to do something for the community and try to show love towards the community," said Moody.
Ivory Ward, another student, says he plans to continue working with the community project.
"My future is staying in this program and making it a big business, big business," said Ward.
For more information about the Opportunity Center, click here.