College Students Provide Non-Profit with Donation To Build Garden

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This time of year, college students all across the country are completing their assignments for the semester. For a group of students at USC, the homework they’re completing involves giving a $10,000 grant to a local non-profit, allowing them to build a “Garden of Eden.”

Neel Bhoopalam, a senior computer science major at USC, is part of a group of students taking a nonprofit management class. The course teaches students about nonprofit organizations, specifically writing and evaluating the grant applications that those types of organizations deal with on a regular basis.

On the first day of the semester, Bhoopalam and his peers learned they would have the chance to give away a $10,000 grant to a real nonprofit. “I’d never heard of something like this being done in a class,” he says.

Over the course of the semester, the students had the difficult task of deciding on just one organization out of all the nonprofits in the Los Angeles area. “So many organizations are doing heroic work,” said Calvin Legassick, a senior computer science major.

Eventually, the students decided on A Place Called Home, a wonderful nonprofit that provides mentoring and educational programs to kids age 8 to 21 from South Central Los Angeles, one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods.

A Place Called Home tends to as many as 300 kids on any given day. It also serves roughy 5,000 meals per month. Recently, funding for a garden the nonprofit was hoping to build fell through, putting the project in jeopardy.

But the grant given to A Place Called Home by the students will make the garden project possible. The garden is expected to be finished by April, at which point the nonprofit will be able to grow its own fruits and vegetables, not to mention grow a collection of beautiful organic flowers.

“These gardens not only improve access to fresh, locally grown produce, but also create employment opportunities for youth,” explains master gardener Maya Yaniv. “We were thrilled to have been selected.”

Not only were the students able to help A Place Called Home, but they also learned a lot. “Philanthropy is challenging,” Bhoopalam said. “After this semester I realized it was even harder than I imagined.”

Perhaps other schools will follow USC’s lead by teaching students and helping nonprofits at the same time. It seems to have worked out perfectly for both A Place Called Home and the students who helped make the group’s garden a reality.