Slideshow: Alumnus helps garden bus bloom
Photos by Devon Eatherly
Special to GCU News Bureau
Dozens of firefighters and police officers were on the scene, but this time it wasn’t an emergency. A Grand Canyon University alumnus, Phoenix Fire Captain Austin Moreland, gathered first responders recently to resuscitate the Cartwright Elementary School District’s vision for a mobile educational garden that will benefit students, teachers and the larger Maryvale community.
It was a sad day last October when Phoenix Fire Department Engine 15 arrived to a vehicle fire in an empty lot adjacent to Bret R. Tarver Elementary School and the Marc T. Atkinson Middle School and found a school bus on fire because of vandalism. It was a total loss.
The first responders later would learn that this was no ordinary bus. This was “Gus the Garden Bus,” designed to go around the Cartwright district and educate kids about plant cycles, plant sciences and healthy eating.
There was no funding for a replacement, so Moreland took it upon himself to gather firefighters, police officers, Phoenix and Cartwright Elementary School District officials and volunteers. They installed raised garden beds on the lot, which will become a community venue, started work on a new “garden bus” and also honored the memory of Tarver and Atkinson, both fallen first responders.
“Today was a true team effort,” Moreland said. “Our service is more than just fire calls or medical calls. We try to do everything we can to support our neighborhoods.”
Phoenix Councilman Daniel Valenzuela was on hand and said, “You’re investing in the people of Maryvale. The proactive measures that first responders are taking show they deeply care about this community.”
Moreland, a Business Administration graduate who played baseball at GCU from 2001 to 2004, was cheered on at the event by his wife, Krista, who received her communications degree from GCU while playing volleyball from 2001 to 2004 and softball in 2004-2005. She returned to complete her master’s degree in secondary education and now owns a small business.