South Tahoe High students lead memorial garden project on campus – Low Calorie Diets Tips

A memorial garden was planted at South Tahoe High School. | Ashleigh Goodwin/Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, California — After a devastating loss in 2021, South Tahoe High School senior Abel Arce led a project to create a memorial garden in the heart of campus.

In a collaborative effort, grief and heartbreak were channeled with the help of students and staff to create a space to reflect, relax and remember those who left too soon.

A succulent area is part of the memorial garden. | Ashleigh Goodwin/Tahoe Daily Tribune

With the funding provided, support from staff and student body contributions, the school now has a culinary herb and plant garden, a rock garden with painted rocks, a succulent garden, sculptures and a safe space for the students.

“In my junior year I lost my best friend to suicide,” Arce said, “I didn’t know how to deal with it at first because I didn’t really feel anything.”

While sitting in the STHS Learning Center, a large classroom and adjoining outdoor space, Arce came up with the idea of ​​leaving a legacy in honor of his friend and making a difference on campus.

superintendent dr Todd Cutler shares a moment with Abel Arce. | Provided/Ashleigh Goodwin

Katie Wheelen, a special education teacher, gave Arce the position of project manager and began working to make his dream a reality.

The revitalization of the space was initiated during Wheelen’s first year on campus. In the early 2000s, special education teachers built raised beds, which eventually fell into disrepair over the years.

Wheelen and school psychologist Natalie Collin got to work to find the funding to make the garden a reality. The students carefully outlined the process, cost, and execution plan used in the grant applications.

The El Dorado County California Retired Teachers’ Association provided funds to purchase the selected plants and the resources necessary to care for them. Embarc Tahoe Cannabis Dispensary provided a $1,000 grant to furnish the area with tables and chairs. The furniture was assembled by the carpentry and construction class led by Tom Castles. The furniture was delivered last Friday to complete the welcoming ambience.

That year, several seniors turned to the garden to complete their capstone project; Senior Projects have been a cornerstone for all STHS graduates since 1995. By completing this rigorous project, students plan, research, and complete a series of assignments that encourage them to delve deep into potential career paths.

According to the STHS website, it is “designed to provide graduating seniors with an opportunity to explore a career, learn a new skill, or pursue a recreational activity they’ve always wanted to do, while at the same time pushing themselves beyond what what they previously thought possible. ”

Michael Maxwell’s senior project shows his interest and expertise as a gardener. As part of the memorial garden, Maxwell’s legacy will produce herbs for future culinary classes to use in their menus and provide ample opportunities to enjoy the educational benefits of exploring, designing and installing plants.

“The Memorial Garden is a special place, this school is a great place with great people,” said Dr. Todd Cutler, Superintendent of the Lake Tahoe Unified School District, who cried when he spoke to Arce about the impact of this project on the campus.

“What an incredible gesture, execution and enforcement on behalf of the students. It matters to the kids,” said principal Justin Zunino. “Katie Wheelen was a big part of the garden. We are very proud of this treasure. Abel’s artwork and support from Katie are a treasure for us.”

On the day of her interview to join the STHS team, Wheelen was featured on the front page of a newspaper for her work gardening at heights. Zunino said the director at the time saw the article and signed a deal to build a garden.

The maintenance of the garden was carried out by the employees involved in the process. Head English teacher Anneliese Tillson’s classroom borders the memorial garden.

Tillson said, “Without a proper sprinkler system and daily attention, we don’t know how it’s going to survive.”

STHS is asking for community support in preserving this campus treasure. As Wheelen prepares to retire this year, the school’s beloved garden has been given a new lease of life.

Anyone interested in contributing to the garden’s irrigation system should email Zunino at

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