The World is Jesse's Garden: Be Like Jesse

There are obvious differences between Jesse McLeod now and when he was in Year 1. His face has matured, he towers in height, and he has a deep, grown-up voice. However, some things have not changed: his curiosity about the world, his great passion for all thing’s sustainability, his courtly manners, and his teacher aide, Mrs Butler.

When Jesse was in Year 1 he was a tiny walking wikihuman, animated and knowledgeable on the topic of 'resource recovery.' He could tell you the purpose of every College collection bin, which items should and shouldn’t go into each, which truck was required for specific collection types, and how the contents were recovered at the recycling depot. 

At home with mum Kim, dad KJ and sister Eden, Jesse was the sentry at the window, tracking the comings and goings of every truck and monitoring the contents of each household bin. 

It was this early fascination that gave Mrs Butler and Enhanced Learning coordinator Mrs Hansford a brilliant idea. When he was in Year 5, they added a new element to Jesse's Individual Education Program and he became the founding BAC Eco-Warrior.

Since then, Eco-Warriors have been instrumental in changing student and teacher mindsets about recycling and reusing resources. Even today, teachers will receive an email with subject line “Recycling Reminder” and message “Have a nice day!” from Mrs Butler, prompting them to get their collections ready for pickup. A well-oiled machine.

By 2019, Jesse was deeply involved in the Garden Club. He was one of the main players in the container and food waste collection on the Secondary campus while various classes and individual students ran the Primary scheme. Refunds went towards equipment and materials for student gardens. Jesse also played a role in diverting food waste from the tuckshop into the school worm farms and, with the help of Mrs Butler, managing a large garden plot at the rear of the Year 7 Block.  

“Jesse has always been interested in the environment. He's always cared very much about nature,” says Mrs Butler.   

By 2020, Jesse entered an Enhanced Learning Department work skills program for two class periods a week under the supervision of groundskeeper Mr Leeson. 

“The object of the program was to fully simulate the employer/employee relationship to prepare Jesse for the world of work,” says Mr Leeson. “It included instructing him in expected and acceptable behaviours for workers in any field of work.”

To help Jesse make the mental switch to employee mode, he was required to change into a BAC support staff uniform, sign in at the administration office, and call his colleagues by their first names during work hours—a change that took some adjusting to! Mr Leeson conducted machinery safety training and guided him through the technical aspects of mowing lawns, trimming hedges, and setting up and pulling down equipment for sports carnivals and events.

The work experience and knowledge he acquired will be invaluable for Jesse's own budding business as a yard and garden care provider in his local neighbourhood. 

It was only a year ago that Jesse, Mrs Butler and I were standing in the shade of the Year 7 classrooms while Jesse watered his garden and washed down the curb. He'd been saving, he told me, for a Holden ute and eventually a Volkswagen Amarok.

It's been a dream of Jesse's to own a vehicle like that for as long as anyone can remember. It will be red, of course—his favourite colour (which also happens to be the colour of his first recycling bin at BAC).

“I’ve saved close to $8,000,” he told me in the mild afternoon sun as he sprayed a rainbow onto pawpaw trees. I have no doubt that he is considerably closer to that goal, a year later.

“That’s impressive savings on your behalf, Jesse,” I remember observing. 

“Yes, it is Mrs Cosier. Thank you.”  

Ah, what an impressive young man! What a remarkable Enhanced Learning Department! And what a beautiful afternoon for a walk in the garden. 

*Jesse will be graduating in December 2020 with his great friends from Year 12. The writer has known Jesse for many years and is currently the BAC Communications and Marketing coordinator.

First published 21 November, 2020. Updated 5 November, 2020.