WEST HILLS, Calif. - It’s the last day of school and students at Enadia Way Technology Charter are getting ready to fly the coop.
As children approach with leafy greens, long time garden volunteer Ynes Zavala asked, “How many times a day do we have to feed our chickens?”
During the school year, he comes to what he calls the 'Secret Garden' six days a week – even though his own kids have moved on to middle and high school.
“It’s a passion," he explained. "It’s hard to walk away when you see the kids when they are out here and how much they enjoy it, enjoy planting, digging, and pulling the weeds and playing with chickens.”
But even after the kids pack up their notebooks and rulers, he’ll still be here, looking after the plants through what’s usually a long hot summer. If he didn’t, he hates to think what he’d find in the fall.
“Oh my goodness, that would be quite a bit of work," he said. "Everything we planted will have died and the only thing that would survive are the weeds.”
For Principal Heather Jeanne, having volunteers on campus during the summer break not only helps keep the garden alive, it also gives her peace of mind.
“Even a weather storm, can some go check on the chickens and they’ll come and let me know during a big hail storm or a wind storm that everything is okay," she said. "It’s their passion and that’s why they do it. It’s a labor of love.”
It must be, to keep Zavala coming back, day after day, summer after summer.
“I get paid in smiles," he said.
It’s not his job – he writes software for a living – but it’s clearly the place where he does his most satisfying work, planting the seeds he hopes will grow into a lifelong love of nature.