“Elizabeth Michel is just an exceptional young woman, not only for the kids in West Dallas who see her as a role model, but for other students, who would see her kindness and see opportunity where they can go into areas like West Dallas and make a difference,” said Sarah Squires, the executive director at the Wesley-Rankin Community Center.
The glowing review of Hockaday senior Elizabeth Michel didn’t stop there.
The 18-year-old has made a mark on the lives of the adults and children with her efforts to teach children to garden at the community center.
A member of Girl Scout Troop 603 at Hockaday, Michel spent her time working toward the prestigious Gold Award by building gardening boxes and planting herbs with children at the center for a summer camp.
“I have always been interested in gardening, but I never had a garden. I figured this was a fun way for myself to learn while also teaching kids,” Michel said.
And teach she did. In a week-long camp, she taught the children how to plant herbs and vegetables in pots at home and how to cook with the things they grow.
At the end of the camp, they made guacamole with some of the herbs they had grown.
“I wanted them to get outside, learn to be healthy, and maybe pick up something to do with their parents or friends,” she said.
But as Squires notes, the skills she gave the children at Wesley-Rankin go much further than teaching a hobby.
“These kids live in a food desert, where access to fresh food is limited. She not only brought to them the knowledge of how to garden, but also an easy way to engage with their personal, nutritional life,” Squires said. “The children take back to their homes an interest in and the skill of gardening, something that can help them better support their families.”
For the editor of the Hockaday yearbook, trips to West Dallas are nothing new.
She’s been there as a member of the high school community service board in addition to the annual Habitat for Humanity house she helps build with her parents.
Now, after being given her Gold Award in October, she plans to return in the spring to help continue revitalizing the center’s outdoor community garden.
“Part of the Gold Award is to create a project that’s sustainable and goes beyond your own project,” Michel said. “I want to go back and get it actually set up, by planting more herbs in the spring, keep that maintained, and pass it along.”
Squires, who has known Michel since elementary school, sees the Preston Hollow native as an ideal role model for the children who frequent the center.
“She is able to gather people together to work with them. There’s a sense of working with as opposed to working for, and it’s a distinctive, and important, leadership element,” she said. “It was more than just about gardening.”