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  • Kate Munning

Mount Olive High School students spend summer volunteering at South Branch Preserve

The Mount Olive Community Fellowship is spending multiple days every week at The Land Conservancy of New Jersey’s Community Garden. The garden is located at the South Branch Preserve, located on the corner of Route 46 and Wolfe Road in Mount Olive, New Jersey.

The Fellowship is comprised of students from Mount Olive High School and was cofounded by 21-year-old Boby Yazdi, a former MOHS student himself. Boby took two gap years after graduating high school, the first of which he spent abroad in India where he received the “Global Citizen of the Year” award and taught English to students while learning about the Hindu language and culture. Boby then spent the following year as a City Year AmeriCorps member on the South Side of Chicago mentoring students in mathematics and organizing community events. He learned a great deal regarding the importance of community and has brought that value back with him to use in his hometown.

Eighteen year old Maya Shah, who has recently graduated from Mount Olive High School, was also instrumental in getting this project started. In high school, Maya was the president of National Honors Society and a tutor to several of her peers. Like Boby, she too has the same passion for strengthening the sense of community and giving back in Mount Olive.

These two young individuals successfully brought together a small group of rising juniors and seniors eager to learn more about gardening and the environment. Comprised of eight members, this group demonstrates passion, courage, and the desire to help others. The fellowship group owns two plots at the garden and maintains them regularly, growing a variety of crops and learning from other gardeners as they progress through the stages of garden maintenance.

The fellows expressed how their work at South Branch Preserve has given them a greater appreciation for locally sourced organic food and the effort that goes into producing it. “This experience is inspiring me to start my own garden at home,” says Boby, Mount Olive Community Fellowship Coordinator.

Additionally, the fellows are currently reaching out to different communities around Mount Olive Township, such as athletic teams and religious organizations, with the goal to successfully invite a variety of people to come to the garden to volunteer and learn more about the space. Their hope is that South Branch Preserve will become a place where the Mount Olive community can come together.

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