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A garden for Joye
RHHS sophomore plants butterfly garden for late Carver principal
ButterflyMemorialGarden Carver 092408
Vernoica Fay has built a special memorial at Carver for the late Joye Johnson, who loved flowers.

"To make a wish come true, whisper it to a butterfly. Upon these wings it will be taken to Heaven and granted. For they are messengers of the Great Spirit."

This Native American lore is something Veronica Fay, a sophomore at Richmond Hill High School, just learned about.

And it makes her summer project even more appropriate.

Fay said she was very upset to learn Carver Elementary School Principal Joye Johnson had passed away in May. Fay missed the memorial service, but heard Johnson’s family distributed packets of flower seeds during the service because of Johnson’s love for


In response, Fay decided she wanted to plant a memorial butterfly garden in honor of Johnson at the school.

"I wanted to do the garden as closure, because she was such a wonderful person," she said. "My mom told me zinnias were easy to manage and were good for butterflies."

Fay said while she was a student at Carver, she often saw Johnson out watering flowers or trimming her rose bushes.

"I knew she liked to garden," Fay said. "She loved flowers and when I found out she had wanted seeds passed out…I thought it would be great to have this ready for the students with the start of the school year."

Fay worked all summer, with the goal to have the garden blooming for returning students on Aug. 8. The space by the fifth grade wing was overgrown and took quite a bit of effort to prepare it for new flowers, but Fay completed the job by herself - with a little help from Carver custodians who helped with some of the watering.

"It was something I did on my own time, I thought it was kind of personal," she said. "It’s my way to say goodbye to Mrs. Johnson."

She added wind socks, wind chimes, garden spinners, bluebird garden statues and a garden thermometer to the fifth grade wing garden and planted flower beds around the trees along the sidewalk leading to the school’s office.

While her timing was a little off for the start of school, the seedlings are now in full bloom and attracting several different kinds of butterflies, dragonflies and even tree frogs. Fay said she recently saw something on television that makes garden seem even more appropriate.

"The program was about butterflies and how they’re like messengers," she said, "bringing your messages up to heaven - telling Mrs. Johnson how much we miss her."

Once the zinnias have reached their peak, Fay plans to harvest the seeds (about 10-20 per blossom) and create mini seed packets for Carver students to take home and create their own butterfly gardens. She’ll take any leftovers and make seed packets for a Relay for Life fundraiser next spring.

In the spring, Fay also plans to re-do the garden with more flowers and is hoping one of the CES classes will adopt the project for the future.

"This gives them a business experience - harvesting the seeds and marketing them and they could have an annual fundraiser with seed packets. I think it’d be a great idea if they made a donation to a charity with the proceeds," she said. "If something I started created a way to help others, that’d be best result."

The project is the first in her Acts of Kindness foundation, which she created this year.

"I thought of the AOK idea after Mrs. Johnson died, trying to think about what I could do to give back to the community and honor her. It’s kind of like (the book and major motion picture) Pay it Forward," she said, where the mantra is by "planting the seeds of kindness, one person can make the world a better place for everyone."

Fay said while young people may often feel like they don’t have a voice, there are opportunities to make a difference. She noted a site she visits daily,, where visitors can click to make a free donation to causes such as breast cancer, the rainforest, hunger, children literacy or animal rescue.

"Some people, when they hear ‘community service,’ they do it to get something out of it. I wanted this project to be something that was right - it didn’t matter if I got anything back," she said. "AOK is about taking time out and doing something positive that can impact someone else’s life."




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