New MSD Program Grows Opportunities at JCPS Schools

MSD Community Benefits Program funds projects throughout JCPS 

November 29, 2021 –Something is growing at Fairdale Elementary School, and it’s not just the tomatoes, sunflowers and garlic.

picture of hydroponic growing beds at fairdale elementary school
In addition to learning about gardening and water conservation using equipment and materials funded through MSD’s Community Benefits Program, the students are seeing their farming skills bud and their self-confidence bloom, according to Principal Darren Atkinson.

“They all want to point out the plant that they grew,” Atkinson said. “Once you explain to them that they can become self-sufficient, it makes them realize, ‘If I can grow food, I can eat, I can survive.’”

The school received $25,000 from HDR Inc., an MSD contractor which participates in the Community Benefits Program. The program leverages MSD’s large-scale construction, engineering and professional services projects to ensure the Louisville community benefits from its capital investments.  Fairdale used the funds from HDR to make hydroponic growing beds, a pump and elevated water containers and improvements to its greenhouse and school gardens.

"At HDR, we believe giving back is not only a civic duty, but a privilege” said Johnathan Thomas, an HDR water engineer based in Louisville. "Early exposure to STEM careers is important at this age and in partnership with MSD’s Community Benefits program, we can continue to address opportunity gaps in our community for children of all backgrounds and ability."

As part of its Request for Proposal process, MSD firms provide a Community Benefits commitment such as a financial contribution, volunteer hours, or in-kind services to Jefferson County schools or non-profits.

Since the program began in 2019, Community Benefits commitments to 10 JCPS schools have totaled more than $466,000, funding STEM materials and supplies, playgrounds and outdoor classrooms, career exploration experiences and a music studio, among a host of other projects.

“Through MSD’s equity-focused Community Benefits Program, we want to ensure we’re intentionally providing students the ability to imagine themselves as engaged citizens, environmental stewards, and valuable workforce contributors,” said Sharise Horne, director of Community Benefits and Partnerships for MSD. “When we all lift and work together, the Community Benefits!”

The innovative program gives back to JCPS schools in meaningful ways that directly impact student learning, according to Eileen Goggin, grants developer for JCPS Resource Development.

“This is a great opportunity for students to learn by doing, to connect their learning to real-world applications such as gardening or growing food, and to master science concepts such as plant structures and function,” Goggin said. “As seeds grow into plants, students will learn about the life-cycle, they will understand the value of patience and persistence, and they will gain confidence from the results of their work.”

At Fairdale, hands-on means hands dirty, as students happily plant seeds, tend vegetables, herbs and flowers, and learn about water conservation using the equipment funded by the Community Benefits Program.

“It gives them a good knowledge of the process of how plants are raised, and ties in with how they can access clean water,” Atkinson said. “We’re showing them they can actually raise food.”