An award and 85 community projects later, a local teacher is working with his students to build a greenhouse that will help youth and the elderly grow together.
Each year Marty Scarlett, a broad-based technology teacher at St. Dominic Catholic Secondary School in Bracebridge, creates a project for students that goes beyond the school curriculum.
“Every year, every grade has to do something for the community,” Scarlett said.
One year Scarlett’s shop class students built a Greenland kayak, which they donated to Variety Village in Toronto. They raised $3,000, met some of the children the kayak would help, appeared on TV, and won the praise of a kayak expert who said he’d never paddled a nicer boat.
Two years later his class created toy boxes filled with toys for children who were taken to the Children’s Aid Society. The boxes were filled with stuffed animals, toys, games, jewelry and a note from the students. The boxes were donated to Family, Youth and Child Services of Muskoka (FYCSM).
This year Scarlett will work with his students to build a 24-foot by 36-foot greenhouse at the Pines in Bracebridge.
Students and seniors will plant, nurture, prune and harvest plants, herbs and crops together. The produce will be split between the Pines, the high school and the food bank, but Scarlett said it’s about much more than food.
“This has nothing to do with growing plants, it’s about growing relationships,” Scarlett said. “It’s about those kids that have no grandparents, realizing how vital they are. It’s about the institutionalized people that are there, feeling life and love again.”
He said it could be a great healing process for both the seniors that may be abandoned as well as youth that are “wrinkled and abused.”
He said every day, every period, there will be students working with seniors at the Pines.
Marty Rutledge, executive director of FYCSM, said Scarlett consistently goes “way beyond what’s required of him as an educator.”
And it shows in his students.
Earlier this year, Scarlett was presented with an award for his community efforts through a nomination by Andrew Bellini-Rutledge, one of his students who had worked on the kayak project.
The Jessie Dunn Award is presented by Family, Youth and Child Services of Muskoka to someone who shows remarkable concern, care of and compassion toward children of Muskoka.
In a letter that was read at the ceremony on his behalf, Bellini-Rutledge said he was asked what the most important thing was that he learned to prepare him for university.
“Mr. Scarlett taught me some of the most important lessons that I have learned,” he said. “Through his well thought out community projects I learned about compassion, about sharing and giving back to the community. I felt and learned the joy of volunteering, of showing that you care for others and most importantly, the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto yourself.”
Bellini-Rutledge had been part of Operation Kayak. Scarlett said students were required to spend 110 hours on the project. Andrew spent 350.
Tears were shed on both sides when Marty Rutledge, who is also Andrew’s father, presented Scarlett with the award.
“It’s rare that I cry in public, but to accept that award in front of those people is just a heart-wrenching thing that you don’t expect, but humbling,” Scarlett said.
“It was a speechless, gratifying moment.”
Rutledge said the whole room felt the impact of the award and many parents whose children had similar experiences thanked Scarlett afterwards.
Scarlett said his goal is to build trust, confidence, hope, and give students nothing but support when they fail “because that’s when they need you the most.”
“Let them stand on top of your shoulders and just hurl them into orbit,” he said.
Scarlett said he has tomorrow’s generation in front of him and he wants to leave a living legacy.
“When I don’t want to get up to teach in the mornings I’ll do something else, because it’s a crucial, crucial craft that cannot be taken lightly,” he said.