Starkville Boys & Girls Club Community Garden

One of the many aspects of mentoring offered by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Golden Triangle is an emphasis on a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits, and architecture students at Mississippi State University (MSU) are involved in a multi-semester project that not only counts as a grade but allows students like Spencer Powell, a fourth-year architecture major from Navarre, Florida, to work directly with the kids on their community garden.
“I am helping with the general construction, acquisition of materials, and maintaining a budget,” said Powell, who will graduate in 2017. “The scope was something, as a class, we thought we could manage in a single semester, but we soon realized it was a much more in-depth project. I think this is a wonderful learning experience for myself and the other students involved. It is not common in our major to have this interaction while still in school.”
The project is taking place on the grounds of the Boys & Girls Club, located at 911 Lynn Lane of Starkville.
“This semester we are constructing Shade Structure 02, which is meant as a teen teaching and hangout area,” said Alexis Gregory, assistant professor at the MSU School of Architecture. “This type of class is called a service-learning class where students partner with a community organization and they work equally together to develop a project.
“The design and construction of the parts of the educational garden are required as part of the class. The raised garden beds and a handicapped ramp at the back exit of the building were constructed last semester.”
“This architectural project and garden can potentially change the identity of the Boys and Girls Club,” said Jeffery Johnson, Unit Manager of the Boys & Girls Club of the Golden Triangle, in a video on the organization’s Facebook page. “This is an opportunity to reach further into Starkville, to get the community involved and get parents involved to push our kids to eat healthily and cultivate their foods, and to be excited about nutrition.”
“When Professor Gregory explained the project to us I had no doubt that this was something worth working on,” Powell said. “We quickly started planning the various structures as well as the garden beds and the ramp. I was involved with most aspects of the project from the beginning due to my job working with the budget.
“It was because of this involvement that I was asked to meet with Mr. Johnson along with Professor Gregory and another student, Jared Robinson, to discuss the project as a whole and make sure it was heading in a direction we were all satisfied with.”
“I feel that the organization is worthy of the efforts of my students and me because of the great work they do for the children and the families of the Golden Triangle,” Gregory said. “They are a great community partner to work with and have excellent ideas on how to design and develop the educational garden.”
Gregory said that many local businesses have stepped up to help, including Bell Building Supply, Oktibbeha County Co-op, Lowe’s, SGK Landscapes, and Lowe’s. Look up MSULearnAndGrow on Facebook, find them on Twitter, and visit their Go Fund Me page at
“We need caring, loving people, that aren’t just saying they’re about service and volunteering,” Johnson said, “but who are passionate about pushing kids to the next level.”
“Working with Mr. Johnson and the Boys & Girls Club has been a wonderful experience,” Powell said. “I am humbled to be involved in a project that will promote learning about growing and maintaining a garden which will be used by kids, and hopefully be used for many years to come.”