Plants, Students Bloom, Enrich Community at Cabarrus Juvenile Detention Center

Author: Diana Kees, Public Relations Manager

One teacher at Cabarrus Juvenile Detention Center in Concord has developed a unique way to work with the juveniles who pass through the center’s doors during their encounters with North Carolina’s juvenile justice system. To foster his students’ growth and development, Steven Hailey offers them the opportunity to nurture distressed plants he has procured at discount from a local home improvement store.

Child works with plants at Cabarrus Juvenile Detention CenterHailey’s ‘Adopt a Plant’ project is going strong – you could say it’s even blossoming. Entering its second year, the seeds of the project were sown when Hailey noticed some bedraggled, reduced-priced plants at the Concord Lowe’s Home Improvement Store. He was told by store management that the plants were thrown out if they didn’t sell. Though store policy doesn’t permit staff to give away the plants, they agreed to sell them to Hailey (using his own money, not state funds) for a greatly reduced price, once he presented his proposed use of the plants at the juvenile detention center to store management. Hailey proposed collecting pre-selected (by Lowe’s staff) distressed plants, that the students at Cabarrus JDC would learn how to nurse back to health. The now-healthy plants would be provided at no cost to local community agencies, family members, etc. and Lowe’s would be provided with an inventory sheet and tracking of progress with plant health outcomes.

“This project provides our students a chance to explore and learn about plant care and the variety of plants in our area,” said Hailey. “This also serves as a way for these young people to learn how to give back to their community.”

A student's work associated with the Adopt A Plant projectHailey indicates that the classroom areas of focus that are sharpened by this project are ‘science, math, writing and character.’ Students learn skills that include classification and grouping of plants; inventory, documentation and care of plants; creation of spreadsheets to track plant data; and job skills in working and caring for plants under staff supervision. Students build self-esteem through creating and being of service to the community; and build leadership skills as they gain an understanding of responsibility as they care for plants and create hanging baskets for their families to take home following weekly visitation.

Students work and care for the plants during recreation time, repotting, removing dead parts, sorting, watering and providing daily care. Hailey notes that one student who was diagnosed with depression wouldn’t leave his room during recreation time. When the project started, Hailey said, this student got outside at every opportunity, taking great ownership with the plants.

“It’s not hard to find volunteers for the ‘Adopt a Plant’ project; the juveniles seem to enjoy having something different to do, they are excited to watch the distressed plants grow into healthy and beautiful flowers, (and) it offers a therapeutic aspect for (others) who may be facing an uncertain future,” said Cabarrus JDC Director Angela Wilson. “Just this week I had a “tutorial” from one of our juveniles who has been bound over to adult court. He told me with excitement and enthusiasm about the different plants, the types of care that they need, and he even had me smell the blooms and leaves noting the different fragrances. It is great to see that he has some sort of positive release while he awaits trial, (while also) gaining a skill.”

Ms. McClain at Cabarrus JDC A final aspect of the project is staff participation: they may take a plant of their choice, but must also take a second plant to give to someone else in their community who could benefit.

“Our goal here is to give to someone who might otherwise be able to purchase such a plant, and to show you are thinking about them,” said Hailey.

Concord Lowe’s Store Manager Billy Carroll says he’s pleased to have this partnership with Cabarrus JDC, and that other stores across North Carolina would welcome a similar arrangement.


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