NORTH SMITHFIELD – A greenhouse is on track to be built on the grounds of North Smithfield High School thanks to a senior project by one students who has discovered an appreciation for gardening during time spent working at the neighboring Goodwin Brothers Farm.
NSHS senior Evan Gravel said he plans to not just build but maintain the facility for use of students in the school’s science and life skills programs.
“It’d be great to give back to the school by creating this, and it gives the students a great opportunity,” Gravel told members of the School Committee this week while seeking approval. “That was my thought behind it.”
Gravel noted he’s also been working Science Department Chairperson Lauren Nelson and Facilities Manager Alan Sepe on the plans.
“Nothing will be done by the school,” he said. “All I’m seeking is permission to build on school grounds.”
Gravel said he’s been working at the neighboring business as a farmhand since the age of 12.
“I started off picking blueberries and I worked my way through the ranks,” he said. “Last summer, I was picking everything. I was picking anything that you can eat there.”
Josh Goodwin from Goodwin Brothers will serve as Gravel’s mentor for the project, which will focus on the importance of agriculture and education, according to a letter submitted to School Committee Chairman James Lombardi this week.
The senior said he plans to conduct fundraising to help with supplies for the structure, and noted that he has already applied for several grants.
“I don’t think I got any,” he said.
Committee Vice Chairperson Jean Meo noted that Lowe’s Home Improvement helped out with a previous project to build a kitchen for life skills students at the school.
“At least it’s a thought,” Meo said. “I think this will be absolutely fantastic. Just as the kitchen has been wonderful for the life skills students, I think that something like this would just open up realms of possibilities.”
Supt. Michael St. Jean agreed.
“I think it’s a fantastic project and I would hope that when Evan’s done he can come build one for us, because my wife has been asking me to build one for the past five years,” St. Jean said. “Now he’ll have all the experience that he needs.”
“I absolutely would love to see this project happen at the high school,” St. Jean added. “I would love to see a greenhouse at NSES as well. I’m fully behind it.”
Committee members granted Gravel unanimous approval at their meeting on Tuesday, March 23.
“We’re looking forward to seeing this,” said St. Jean.
“Thank you for taking on this project, and we appreciate your commitment to the schools,” said Lombardi. “Good luck.”