Diane Miller’s ability to create bat houses from an old wooden fence and a ceramic garden container from a recycled bath tub is why her time spent with a summer program in Muskegon has been so impactful.
Miller, originally from Stanford, Conn., graduated from Grand Valley in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in geography and is currently working toward her master’s degree in public administration.
For the last two years, Miller has worked with Growing Goods, a six-week summer program through Muskegon Middle School that aims to lower the high rate of obesity, hyper-tension and diabetes in the area by educating young people. The program focuses on the integration of core curriculum with life skills, cooking, gardening, health, nutrition and sustainable practices.
“Education and awareness for these young people are our key to better nutrition,” said Miller, a graduate assistant for the Regional Math and Science Center in the College of Education. “There is a purpose and an outcome to what we are doing. This can change lives.”
Miller said the relationships that are built with the students are integral to the program’s success. “We are able to build community and build lasting relationships, which is huge,” said Miller. “The students trust me, they talk to me, and before you know it, we are solving problems that in turn have nutritional benefit.”
Miller said she looks forward to the continuation of Growing Goods and stresses the importance of the retention of students. “When young people see the value of what we are doing and understand the process, they are able to further their education and return to educate another generation of students,” said Miller. “This is what we want part of our legacy to become.”
Looking ahead, Miller said she hopes to continue educating students and working with outreach programs in areas like Muskegon.