Summer experience: Senior builds greenhouses for less fortunate

September 3, 2015 — by Julia Miller

Shah was part of a program called Valley Verde, a nonprofit organization in Santa Clara County that helps communities grow their own produce.

For this project, Shah worked with three other volunteers to complete the construction of six greenhouses for a poorer neighborhood in Gilroy.

After a 40-minute regular commute this past summer, senior Partha Shah stepped out of his car to the foggy Gilroy landscape, ready once again to build greenhouses. After collecting the needed materials, Shah and his three teammates began where they had left off the day before, working to complete the progressing buildings that will soon be a site for brighter futures in the Gilroy community.

Shah was part of a program called Valley Verde, a nonprofit organization in Santa Clara County that helps communities grow their own produce.

For this project, Shah worked with three other volunteers to complete the construction of six greenhouses for a poorer neighborhood in Gilroy.

Over the summer, Shah said he worked for the organization three days a week, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., for around two to three weeks. The program also helped them get the seeds they needed to grow their own crops in the greenhouses,  Shah said.

Never having done a project like this before, Shah was interested in the idea of constructing the greenhouses and getting volunteer hours just before summer had ended. Shah was referred to Valley Verde through his mother’s workplace, PayPal, and he asked if he could join their team.

While building the greenhouses, Shah and his fellow volunteers had to keep in mind the budget that was set by Valley Verde. In order to design the six greenhouses, they could only spend as much as they were allowed to along with certain materials to build with.

“We wanted to keep each greenhouse under $500, so we had the basic design which we modeled,” Shah said. “They bought wood and PVC parts and some other components to build them all.”

Over the duration of the project, Shah was able to apply himself to the production with abilities he had been taught by teachers from Saratoga High, and through courses and extracurricular activities he had taken in the past.

Shah used 3D modeling he learned in Introduction to Engineering and knowledge he absorbed from Robotics in his sophomore year applied when he put the houses together.

Shah said the experience helped him form new relationships with the people he worked with as well. Shah became friends with the director who runs the company and the man who designs the greenhouses.

By applying skills learned from school in a practical environment, Shah said that the summer stint  was eye-opening for him.

“Although I learned all the skills to build these houses in school, I wasn't really doing anything with them. It’s much more meaningful to apply yourself and help others rather than just solely focus on school. It gives you more meaning and purpose for yourself.”