In the winter of 2010, Zion Chapel High School introduced a whole new meaning to school pride. They established the Zion Chapel "Turf Crew." The Turf Crew is a group of students who are responsible for turf and landscape management, as well as overall appearance of the school campus. The crew’s motto is, "If it’s growin’, we’re mowin’."
The program was developed through the Agri Science Program and the Zion Chapel FFA chapter. It has been a win-win situation for the students and school as a whole. The Turf Crew has attracted a wide variety of students from grades 9-12. It has also greatly enhanced the appearance of the campus as well as the seven athletic fields. By installing the program, it reduces the school’s expenses due to the hard work of the crew members.
"The Turf Crew has been an excellent addition to our campus and is a dedicated and committed crew who works during their own time after ball games to make sure everything is like it should be. I wish we could have had this program ten years ago because everyone notices their hard work," Zion Principal Bob Hartwell said.
According to Scott Hendricks, Agri Science teacher, "There have been many positives to come out of this program. First and foremost, it has involved students in our school who are not a part of the athletic program, band, etc. It gives them a sense of belonging and pride in their school. Secondly, the skills they are learning are preparing them for the work force. It takes a lot to run this program, and we are blessed to have the support of our school, local farmers and local businesses."
The school purchased a ten-foot reel mower to properly cut the athletic fields, local businesses have donated sand and a top dresser for "sanding" the fields, and local farmers have donated an aerator and tractors when needed. They rely heavily on Pike Farmers Co-op for not only the seed, fertilizer and herbicides we need, but their advice as well.
Recently, the Turf Crew was recognized at half-time during a home football game for their services and was later published in local newspapers. As a reward for the members’ dedication and hard work, all members receive an identification card giving them free access to games and a free meal from the concession stand. It also allowed coaches to be able to focus on practice and games rather than field preparation.
"The Turf Crew has taken a lot of pressure off of all the coaches at our school. In the past, we had to keep the grass cut, constantly adjust the irrigation system, etc. Now we can focus on practice and play on a beautiful field! This crew is definitely an asset to our school," Mike Waters, head football coach at Zion Chapel, said.
Zion Chapel is most proud of its new program because it prepares students by teaching skills and traits that will help lead to success. These skills include responsibility, accountability, attention to detail, problem-solving, leadership, ability to promote themselves and dependability — all of which build character.
The Turf Crew is managed by the "Teamwork" concept. Each Turf Crew member starts by picking up trash in a five-gallon bucket. As they demonstrate the listed character traits, they are promoted to leaf blowers, then a push mower, string trimmer, zero turn mower and, ultimately, the reel mower. Members must demonstrate a positive attitude, willingness to work and a desire to learn the safe operation of the tool at the next level. During this process, students are also learning irrigation, soil nutrition, soil aeration, winter overseeding and top dressing.
While students are diligently working toward higher goals, they are learning the proper use of outdoor power equipment and how to maintain it. In addition, they learn the good habits of recordkeeping like oil changing dates and amounts of herbicides and fertilizers applied to the fields.
On Friday nights at the home football games, the crew divides into a home and visitor team with new captains (leadership skills) each week. They completely clean and dispose of all garbage within 30 minutes…what normally took band parents a few hours. In addition, one member cuts the field with the reel mower as soon as the football teams clear the field to "heal" the divots caused from players’ cleats.
Zion Chapel is very proud of its new-found program and its manicured campus. The crew has received many praises, but Dr. McPherson’s (superintendent of Coffee County Schools) words say it all. "I think the Turf Crew is an outstanding program; congratulations to the students who have decided to be a part of this exciting program. The Turf Crew is a wonderful example of student involvement, both at the school level and to the community. It helps instill a sense of school pride in the students."
If you would like more information on how to start a Turf Crew at your school, contact Scott Hendricks at hendrickss@ coffeecounty.k12.al.us.
Kennedy Sanders is Zion Chapel FFA Reporter.