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Charter school students donate plants to thank hospital staffer for their work during COVID-19 outbreak

The special needs students at Commonwealth Charter Academy gave 50 plants to workers at UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg and the Hershey Medical Center.
Credit: Commonwealth Charter Academy
Special needs students at Commonwealth Charter Academy donated 50 plants they grew for a project to doctors, nurses and support staff at UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg and the Hershey Medical Center.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Students at a Pennsylvania charter school showed their support for Central Pennsylvania doctors, nurses, and other workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 by donating plants they had grown as part of a 10-week project.

Special needs students at Commonwealth Charter Academy, a pubic cyber charter school serving more than 9,500 students statewide, donated 50 plants to doctors, nurses, and support staff at UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg and Penn State Health Hershey Medical Center, the school said in a press release.

The plants, which included purple basil, pineapple sage, and jade, were grown at AgWorks at CCA, the school's aquaponics facility in Harrisburg, as part of the school's Goals, Relationships, Opportunities, and Workmanship program. 

GROW is designed to help students with autism and intellectual disabilities work on social skills, independence, and transition and employability, CCA said.

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The 10-week program kicked off in February. Students were given the goal of growing plants to bring to market, with lessons on food safety, marketing skills, social skills, and money management, the school said.

But the COVID-19 outbreak forced the program to be put on hold when Gov. Tom Wolf closed schools across the state in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

So the AgWorks at CCA team and CCA's special education teachers worked with students remotely to modify the program and bring it to completion.

Using online technology, students met to identify an opportunity to use what they learned by donating the plants to medical professionals to thank them for what they are doing to help patients impacted by the coronavirus.

The students also wrote letters to include with the plants to tell the nurses, doctors and support staff about themselves and the program, and to thank them for their hard work.

Credit: Commonwealth Charter Academy
Letter of support from a CCA student

"These students are to be commended for their hard work, dedication, and selflessness," said Dr. Maurice Flurie, president at CEO of CCA. "I am proud of each one of them for accomplishing their goal and giving back to the community."

To support students outside of CCA, the GROW program included students from the Vista School in Hershey, which provides services to children and adults living with autism in central Pennsylvania.

The plants were grown by students before the school’s closure and donated to hospital workers by CCA staff practicing safe social distancing measures.