Some people come into our lives but for a brief moment, yet have a profound and lasting impact. Today’s post is in honor of one such person, the visionary, enthusiastic, and loving Amy Applegate.
Amy and I first met in 2009 at the new teacher orientation at a school in the Bronx. She was hired as the health teacher and I was hired as a middle school science teacher. I loved the enthusiasm with which she spoke, her positive words, and the fact that she didn’t take herself so seriously. It was with this same enthusiasm that she proposed starting a garden at our school. A garden in a school? I had never heard of that before. She had been trained as a Master Gardener and was knowledgeable in how to do this. Amy was able to obtain a grant for our school and continued working steadfastly towards this goal even while undergoing treatment for cancer. With the support from the school community and two very dedicated teachers-Anthony and Ali, along with a group of interns from a nearby university and several enthusiastic students, the vision of a school garden became a reality.
I witnessed firsthand the transformative experience gardens can have on school communities-how sitting in the garden can restore peace and balance in the middle of a hectic day, how it can serve as an outdoor classroom, how it can forge bonds and strengthen communication between students and teachers, and how it can help students recognize their talents and contributions, as well as bear witness to the fruits of their labor. Of course, the delicious, healthy produce was a great benefit too.
Amy introduced me to school gardens, farmer’s markets, locally grown foods, and sustainability. She helped to rekindle my passion for gardening and growing things and inspired me to learn more about our food system and sustainability. It is because of her positive influence that I chose to work with GrowNYC as a Seed to Plate educator, that I enrolled in the Oahu Master Gardener program, that I am seeking opportunities to work on a farm, and why I am volunteering with organizations that promote school gardens and environmental conservation.
Two years ago today, on March 26, 2012, Amy passed away in California in the company of loved ones. On May 5, 2012 our school community, led by our dedicated team captain Ali, participated in the EIF Revlon Run/Walk for Women, raising funds for cancer research and honoring the unique, phenomenal, and courageous person she was. Even in her passing, Amy united our school community towards a common goal. And it extended past the Walk. Amy had a dream of bringing a rock climbing wall to our school because she believed it would make the most use of the gym space and that kids would have the opportunity to do something fun and challenging while promoting physical fitness. Through contributions from the 5toClimb campaign and generous donors, Amy’s dream became a reality.
“Dream big. Be sweet,” she used to say. Her words and actions expressed this motto and continue to serve as an inspiration. Amy, for sharing your dreams, your love, and passion for life…thank you.
With Love, Magaly