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first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsTogether the 28 freshmen students and the shelter residents cultivated the soil, planted sunflower, cilantro, pepper, tomato and other vegetable seeds and watered the tiny plants as they poked up through the dirt. For the project, the residents and students also shared stories about their life experiences at First Day and in the students’ classrooms at Whittier College. Resident Pat Bouchard, who lived on the streets for two years before making his way to the shelter three years ago, said visiting the college has been as satisfying as watching the garden grow. “Being invited to a college class when you are homeless sends your self-esteem through the roof,” he said. The experience has been equally transformative for the students, said Spanish professor Rafael Chabran, who teaches a social services class with Paula Sheridan. WHITTIER – The best part of Michele Rodriguez’s day is driving into the parking lot at the homeless shelter where she lives and seeing tall, yellow sunflowers reaching for the sky. The garden was planted on a stretch of dirt next to the lot by Rodriguez and other residents of the Whittier Area First Day Coalition’s shelter and Whittier College students. “It has been a shared experience that brought me fulfillment and purpose,” said Rodriguez, who lived in parks, cars and the street before moving to the shelter earlier this year. “Now where there was just dirt, I see life.” It was the second time the shelter’s 38 residents have partnered with the college’s students to plant the garden. It was Sheridan, an associate professor of social work, who brought the idea for the garden to First Day officials last year. “We always talk at the college about using the Los Angeles area as an actual laboratory, and that is what is happening here,” said Chabran. “This type of project forces students to learn in the real world.” Digging in the dirt with the First Day folks broke down barriers for 18-year-old Teresa Hidalgo. “I’ve come to realize they aren’t just the homeless. They are actual human beings, just like me, who I can relate to,” she said. “I thought we would just be helping the homeless residents, but we ended up learning from them,” said Samantha Smith, 19. debbie.pfeiffer@sgvn.com (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img


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