Driving through Vista’s beautiful and vibrant campus each morning, I am reminded of just how important a positive surrounding is for one’s mindset. This is especially the case for our residents, many of whom come from chaotic environments and are here because of difficult life circumstances. Knowing this, I am heartened that these children have places on campus that provide a sense of calm like the gazebo in Katia’s Garden (made possible by the Katia Francesconi Charitable Fund), or lay under an orange tree in JP’s Fruit and Vegetable Garden (a gift from JP’s Peace, Love & Happiness Foundation). What I am thankful for is that these resources go beyond just providing a tranquil oasis, they represent an opportunity for our students to develop real-life job skills in the culinary and horticulture industry.
These gardens fill me with joy for two major reasons. One, students and residents learn to appreciate fresh fruits and vegetables as a healthy alternative to fast foods. Secondly, there is actual financial value to the fruits and vegetables they harvest. For example, when our students and residents sell their veggie baskets they see firsthand that hard work pays off. This success instills a sense of pride, helping open our student’s minds to new career possibilities.
Another generous gift and resource that generates opportunity is the Vista Café. This state-of-the-art kitchen (also made possible by the Katia Francesconi Charitable Fund) doubles as a store where both coffee and food are sold to staff. It’s here where students learn about safe food handling and cooking preparation.
These three spaces give students the hands-on experience of what it takes to grow, prepare food, and then sell it. Farm to table cooking is not offered in most schools. With help from our dedicated staff, students learn everything from what it takes to have a clean safe kitchen that handles and stores food properly and how to get a return on your investment.
The Café and Gardens at Vista offer something special that many students do not experience: an opportunity to engage in self-exploration; discovering talents and skills that boost their self-worth. Our vocational programs prepare our students and residents for the future. Knowing that what they learn at Vista can one day lead to a self-sufficient life path is ultimately what makes these resources so valuable.