“We plant for three generations,” Wes says, smiling into the microphone. “We are about planting trees whose shade we do not get to enjoy.”
Although his words are in the context of last April’s CHCA Food Symposium, Wes Duren '97 knows a thing or two about Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. Since graduating from our school’s third class, Wes has kept in contact through his role as co-owner of Marvin’s Organic Gardens.
In addition to sponsoring the Food Symposium, Wes presented to a heavily attended session in CHCA’s state-of-the-art greenhouse. Surrounded by plants and vegetation, Wes was in his element. Prior to the event, he was interviewed by the symposium podcast where he discussed his model of planting with future generations in mind.
“It’s about things that are going to outlive us. Take a sugar maple for instance—we can plant it now and eventually it will be tapped for syrup, but probably not in this lifetime. We are not only gardening for this generation; we are planting trees that will outlast our children’s children. That’s what leaving a legacy is all about.”
Now as CHCA celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year, the symbolism of the sugar maple takes on greater significance. Much like a landscaper, CHCA is invested in growth—while this growth may be seen literally in the life-giving plants flourishing in the school’s organic garden, it is also a metaphor for the many ways the school fosters a sense of legacy.
Seeds are planted in the pre-school classrooms as the youngest of CHCA students embrace the joy of learning through the Reggio approach—their interests guiding their discoveries. And so the seeds grow. This growth continues through the lower elementary years as students uncover amazing truths about the world around them and begin to develop the skills necessary to navigate those truths. And so the plants take root. In upper elementary the students venture into outdoor learning opportunities where the hands-on approach yields tactile understanding which directly guides them into further growth at the upper school. Throughout this experience, prospects for growth abound. From performing in theatrical productions to performing in sacred music concerts, from competing in athletic events to competing at robotic competitions, from training to become a barista to training to become an entrepreneur, and through so much more, CHCA provides fertile soil.
Here’s where the metaphor takes on exciting promise. At CHCA, graduation is not the harvest. While it does represent the culmination of years of nurturing seeds to life and fruition, it is, moreover, one more stage in the life of the tree—a tree whose roots are strong, and whose foundation is firm, but a tree whose journey has just begun. At CHCA, we plant trees for three generations. And four, and five, and six. At CHCA, we understand that building into these children is building into their children and their children’s children.
We send our children to this school because we believe in the importance and permanence of this process—we believe in investing in not only our children, but in all their future generations. We believe in planting seeds, knowing that those growing trees, with the strength of the sugar maple, will outlive us and that someday, somewhere along the line, when that tree is tapped, the syrup will flow—a rich and abundant legacy indeed.
About the Author
Stephen Carter lives in Cincinnati, OH, with his wife, Ashley, and two children. He runs CHCA’s Business Entrepreneurship Program which will expand soon beyond the current student-run coffee bar and other ventures to include a certificate program. In addition he teaches English and is working on a sustainability initiative at the school which started with a successful Food Symposium and its effort to focus on food grown locally, raised sustainably, and harvested ethically. He has too many hobbies and can usually be found developing sourdough bread recipes, preparing for his next backpacking trip, experimenting with new vegetables, or trying to find his next good read.