Focus Kalamazoo builds school gardens with help of Jeter's foundation

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Volunteers get down and dirty outside of a Kalamazoo County elementary school.

They're giving the exterior a mini-makeover, all thanks to a big grant from an all-star from Kalamazoo.

Dozens of volunteers -- all high school and college students -- get ready for a day of hard work.

They're from Focus Kalamazoo, a new community volunteer organization for young people.

Founder and President Tinashe Chaponda says, "We want to tell students and show them you can give back to the community while enjoying it at the same time."

The group was able to secure a $6,000 grant from Jeter's Leaders, which is part of the Derek Jeter Turn 2 Foundation. They're using those funds to spruce up Woodward Elementary School.

Chaponda says, "They will be making six different beds, each will be for a different grade. The other area is the pond area, they will be cleaning that up, taking out the fish and restoring it and making it work better. For the baseball area, they'll be weeding all of that."

This will also be helping kids at Woodward Elementary learn outside the classroom.

Principal Frank Rocco says, "They help plant, they help pick -- and they do a lot of different experiments and activities through the school year in this garden. The teachers have been wanting an area where they can do their own planting, gardening, experiments with students."

Rocco says these are projects the school has wanted to do for years, but it hasn't had the resources. "It's going to help us out a lot," he says.

The school on the Northside of the city has a lot of at-risk students. Focus Kalamazoo says it hopes to keep doing good, after the day's work is done.

Chaponda says, it "gives the kids something to look forward to, and they know there's someone out there who's helping them and knows about them.