SJS students plant seeds of peace

Students at the St. John Street Community School planted seeds of peace last week as part of an initiative to build a sense of community and promote harmony in Monticello and beyond.

The Worldwide Daffodil Project’s (WWDP) mission is to plant 1.5 million daffodil bulbs around the world in commemoration of the children who perished in the Holocaust, and also in subsequent acts against humanity. On Oct. 20, preschoolers and high school students worked together with the WWDP to create a daffodil memorial garden outside of the St. John Street School, with the older students building the flower beds and the youngest planting the bulbs. The bulbs are expected to bloom around Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, in the spring.

a group of people are standing by a freshly dug flower bed
The project was a community initiative, with both the preschoolers and high schoolers from St. John Street participating. Hope Blecher, Community Volunteer and WWDP Ambassador and Lori Orestano-James, President Elect of Monticello Rotary, and Landfield Avenue Synagogue Board of Directors Secretary, were on hand to help.

“This is a great location for this project with the older and younger kids working together,” Community Volunteer and WWDP Ambassador Hope Blecher said. “It’s cross-curricular — students have been taught about the Holocaust — it’s a requirement in the New York state curriculum – and the planting also integrates science lessons. It’s a community project and a community endeavor with the theme blossoming from year to year.”

The bulbs aren’t the only thing to grow as a result of this project. Thanks to the support of the Landfield Avenue Synagogue and the Monticello Rotary, the garden at St. John Street will be integrated into an expanded walking tour in the future connecting the school to Broadway, past the Black Library, to the government center and down to the synagogue. These organizations are working collaboratively with the school so that when the flowers come up in the spring, the students understand the symbolism.

“No matter what we do, unless we get this generation to understand the need for peace, we’re doing nothing,” President Elect of Monticello Rotary, and Landfield Avenue Synagogue Board of Directors Secretary Lori Orestano-James said. “We’re hoping to teach these students what it means to build community, build camaraderie, build hope, and more than anything, build peace.”