High School Seniors Volunteer at New Sensory Garden for Service Day

ANKENY, Iowa  --  As the school year comes to an end, some students are taking their projects out of the classroom to help others.

This isn't your typical day at school.

Ankeny Centennial High School Senior Nate Williams said, "It's so much better being here. I don't feel like I'm doing a whole lot in school now since I'm almost done."

Twenty seniors from Ankeny Centennial High School are giving back at On With Life Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center.

Senior Kiki Bennett said, "Every year we do senior service day, so we give back to the community since Ankeny has given us so much over the past 12 years of our education."

The seniors spent the morning planting herbs, putting together park benches, and painting projects.

Senior Brittney Eilers said, "Each one of these (painted objects) can be laid in different spots and as people come out can be able to sense those things, and some people may not be able to look up and straight, but they can look down and spot these things and be able to connect to them."

The seniors are working at On With Life's new sensory garden.

On With Life Environmental Planner Cindy Friedrichsen said, "Studies have shown that being outdoors is very helpful to persons with brain injury."

The garden is designed in the shape of a brain, and aims to aid therapy for those with a brain injury.

Board member Kate Benson Larson said, "So if you have a balance problem, you might find yourself in the occipital lobe, and they have different types of ways of bringing various sophisticated therapies out into the world."

Many groups have been a part of the sensory garden at On With Life, including this year's Ankeny Leadership Institute. They built raised garden beds that are built to accommodate people in wheelchairs.

Benson Larson said, "I'd like to thank all of the volunteers that have been a part of this effort. This is a one-of-a-kind garden that we're not aware of another one in the world that is in ground."

The garden will also feature a putting green and all-inclusive playground. The high school seniors are thankful to be a part of the project.

Eilers said, "It's made me more passionate about wanting to become an occupational therapist."

Williams said, "It's pretty fun to get out with my friends and do service stuff, and having the people out in the community, I feel like it will change a lot of people's minds about kids in general."

The On With Life sensory therapeutic garden has been in the works for five years and should be finished by the end of the summer.