UNSUNG HERO: Master gardner volunteers at Vienna Grade School - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

UNSUNG HERO: Master gardner volunteers at Vienna Grade School

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WSIL -- A master gardner is lending her green thumb to students at Vienna Grade School. While learning about horticulture they developed a passion for the lifestyle and a love for their special teacher.

Most elementary students prefer the playground during lunch break, but there's a special place man Vienna Grade School kids like to go instead.

"It's quite. It's peaceful. I love it out here," said fifth-grader Cameron Carrick.

"When you walk through the Gourds, it feels like you can calm down and do anything you want and it feels really fun," added fourth-grader Nevaeh Coonce.

Students involved in the schools garden club have learned how to plant and grow seeds for vegetables, fruits, and spices.

"I wanted to do something like my Dad when I'm older," said fourth-grader Gracelyn Yadloski.

"They said that there was a garden club and I was like, I want to do that. That sounds really fun," added Nevaeh.

Last Spring, more than 70 students joined the club growing watermelon, carrots, eggplants, basil, tomatoes and much more. One of the reasons the club is so popular is because of volunteer and Master Gardner, Carmen Dixon.

"The kids are so well behaved and they just do such a good job and they are so respectful that I like to come here," said Carmen.

Principal Saeward Mattox began the garden club as part of her college thesis.

"It is a family affair. It is a community affair and we want as many options and opportunities as we can get." 

Since Ms. Carmen has come on board, Saeward said the garden has doubled in size.

"One day she had someone come and taught us about honey and bees and I really liked it," said Nevaeh.

Saward said Ms. Carmen teaches them with such a kind heart and positive attitude that the students enjoy learning more being around her.

"She is someone that, because I know her and I've met her, I believe I'm a better person."

For the students, it's also like having a grandmother around. 

"She's really special and she's really nice," said Gracelyn.

Ms. Carmen has been gardening most of her life. She started with helping her grandfather when she was a small child.

"I inherited something through generations that I can pass on to others," said Carmen.

Last year, she decided to take the "master gardner" course offered through the University of Illinois Extension. That's when the Vienna native volunteered with the school's garden club.    

"I don't mind whether it blooms or whether you eat it, as long as you like doing it and have a good time," added Carmen. 

The garden is closed for the season but Ms.Dixon plans to come back and expand it next spring.

To next Master Gardener class, offered by the University of Illinois Extension is starts in January at John A. Logan College. For more information contact Erin Medvecz at emedvecz@illinois.edu or 618-833-6363. You can also contact Maggie Rose at mro@illinois.edu or 618-687-1727.

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