Fresh Starts was a rewarding project for both Astoria High School students and the Master Gardener Association Fresh Starts team. Due to the extensive remodeling at AHS, the Fresh Starts program was set to end with the 2020 school year, but ended a little early in March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Fresh Starts program began in 2013. It was collaboration between Astoria High School and the Clatsop County Master Gardener Association. CCMGA needed greenhouse space to store plants for the annual Spring Plant Sale & Garden Fair and AHS had a greenhouse that had not been used for several years. Master Gardener Pam Holen approached the principal at AHS with a plan for the Master Gardener Association to teach basic gardening techniques to the Youth Transition Program students who showed interest in leadership, business, and horticulture in exchange for use of the greenhouse. The plan was adopted by CCMGA and AHS and the Fresh Starts program was off and running.
When CCMGA began preparations for Fresh Starts, it needed shelving, tables and better ventilation for air movement. The CCMGA Board approved funding in the amount of $500, AHS administration approved $500 and Home Depot donated $500 toward the improvements. Eight employees of Home Depot, along with AHS students and CCMGA members built a planting table, installed shelving and put up a storage locker. Master Gardener Marlene House made a $500 donation, a memorial to her daughter Erin House. Marlene's gift funded a new climate control system which was soon installed.
The Fresh Starts classes were taught in the 18’x30’ greenhouse on campus and the greenhouse was managed by CCMGA members and the YIT students and instructor. Three or four Master Gardeners worked with the students during monthly classes, teaching them various propagation techniques which included divisions, cuttings and starting plants from seed. The students learned how to care for the plants throughout the school year. They used the plants they raised to make various attractive planters and hanging baskets which they sold at the end of the term. The students also developed their own marketing plan, pricing structuring and advertising. The proceeds from their sale were used to buy supplies for the class beginning the next fall.