HAEF provides a dream backyard for the Transition Academy

A peek into the backyard of the Transition Academy reveals a green landscape, wooden benches that sit under a pergola, a water fountain, a walking trail, and a small garden.

“Initially, we had a gracious donation from the HAEF foundation that provided the landscaping that we have back here,” Director for Special Education Daniel Garza said.

 The Harlingen Area Educational Foundation provided $75,000 for landscaping and outdoor features at the Transition Academy.

“We are so excited that we were able to do something for the students with special needs in our district,” HAEF President Belinda C Zapata said. “The HAEF board was very committed to working very hard to raise the money and do our part because this is part of the legacy that is going to be left for the Harlingen students.”

Students have visited the home frequently since the beginning of the school year to work on indoor and outdoor projects and activities at the house.

 On March 1, Transition Academy students planted their first garden with the help of Harlingen High School agriculture science teacher Andres Gonzalez’s advanced plant class.

“They have been learning about plants and stuff in their own classes so right now we are just demonstrating in real life and in a hands-on experiment,” Harlingen High School senior Caden Burns said. “They can see the actual growth out here. I love anything having to do with agriculture and, it’s actually just really nice to be able to help out.”

Students planted herbs, vegetables, fruits, and flowers in raised planter beds on that day.

“We have a lot of greenery out here and all of this is for the students to have flexible learning,” Transition Academy teacher Maira Gutierrez said. “I am very grateful for the donations because this is giving our students an opportunity to extend their learning.”

Transition Academy Ambassador and Harlingen High School senior Karina Sandoval described her experience at the Transition Academy.

“Well right now as you see we are planting seeds and we are planting roots,” Sandoval said. “We often come out a lot. Sometimes we walk on this trail and go back around. After that, we just talk about our daily routine. It’s kind of fun here. This is my home. Like, this is a blessing to me. It means the world to me here.”

HAEF will be hosting a housewarming event to honor the Transition Academy patrons on March 10 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“I don’t know that the whole community understands what is available to our students with special needs at HCISD,” Zapata said.  “I encourage everybody to come out here at least once and tour the facility. It is really second to none. It’s an amazing home and the students are thriving.”




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