New Villa Garden Greenhouses quadruple sheltered growing space for students

The possibilities that come with each spring are always met with excitement at the Villa. They bring a new season of growth in the Villa Garden, meaning fresh opportunities for students to immerse in the colors, textures, smells, and wildlife that reawaken. This year, we had even more reasons to celebrate the return of spring with the installation of two beautiful greenhouses, made possible through a generous gift by Mark and Patty Smith, and Midas of Richmond.

This transformational addition will give students four times the sheltered space to discover and experience the cycles of nature as they grow their own food from seed to plate.

“Our students love the garden because it’s an oasis from the classroom when a break is needed. While students explore the garden and tend to our plants, they strive to learn more and connect with nature,” said Matthew Kreydatus, Director of the Villa’s Career and Transition Services (CATS).

The new greenhouses are fully accessible with wheelchair-friendly workbenches.

The greenhouses provide a comfortable space for growing fruits and vegetables, but much more than that, they’re a training center for life skills that will prepare students for success and greater independence after school.

The process of planting and caring for seeds encourages students to practice patience, communication, responsibility, and reflection. When it’s time to harvest their bounty, students will enjoy the rewards of their hard work while gaining confidence in their abilities.

“Mark and Patty Smith have made this garden and the magic that happens here possible in so many ways. Each year more than 250 students and staff members get to work in the garden, so it’s home to a lot of us,” said Jenny Friar, Chief Advancement Officer.

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, students from our Dooley School, Dooley Center for Alternative Education, and Sarah Dooley Center for Autism came together for the grand opening of their new greenhouses. The greenhouses will continue serving as a vibrant gathering place in years to come, where students can engage each other and unleash their creativity.

This fall, we’ll celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Villa Garden. Over the last decade, it has expanded and evolved as a dynamic shared resource for education, therapy, and healing thanks to our community partners. This next phase in the life of our garden will offer exciting new opportunities for cross-curricular learning, building job readiness skills, and hands-on activities that contribute to physical and mental health. We can’t wait to see what our students grow!

CATS director Matthew Kreydatus presents Mark and Patty Smith with thank-you gifts created by Villa students, including a 3D-printed model of the greenhouses.

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