Peace Garden, creator Mauricio Sosa blossom at Basalt High School | PostIndependent.com

Peace Garden, creator Mauricio Sosa blossom at Basalt High School

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Kate Bradley (left), a teacher and librarian at Basalt High School, and Robin Waters (right) a mentor in the Capstone Project program, helped student Maurciio Sosa pursue his vision of building the Peace Garden at the school.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

HELP WITH THE PEACE GARDEN

Numerous organizations and individuals have contributed cash or in-kind service to Mauricio Sosa’s Peace Garden project at Basalt High School, but a critical one was a $7,500 grant from Eagle County’s Neighborhood Partnerships Program. Sosa is trying to raise $10,000 to finalize the project. Contributions can be made at Sosa’s Peace Garden GoFundMe page.

Basalt High School senior Mauricio Sosa had a vision for creating a Peace Garden as a freshman after being bullied for most of his academic years to that point.

There was no way of foreseeing back then how successful the project would become or how it would help transform Sosa.

The Peace Garden is in an open courtyard at the high school. Gravel paths wind through river rock and shrubbery. There are benches that provide students with a quiet place when they need to get away or it is a setting where friends can gather for lunch and laughs.

He raised more than $44,000 for the first phase of the project through cash donations and in-kind help.

“I never really thought that so many people would support the project. It takes a village — it took a village,” Sosa said.

He’s on a mission to complete his vision in the four weeks remaining before he graduates from the school. He is raising additional funds for final touches — wiring for lights, shade structures, permanent tables and seats, additional landscaping and an improved drip irrigation system. Then there is the never-ending battle with the ubiquitous weeds. The Peace Garden needs better weed barrier.

He has raised another $19,000 but still needs about $10,000 to fulfill his vision.

Kate Bradley, a teacher and librarian at the school, has assisted Sosa throughout his four years and has little doubt he will find the remaining funds.

“He can call a funder at the drop of a hat,” she said. Sosa has also become adept at writing grant proposals.

“I keep saying to him, ‘You don’t need me any more, do you?’” she said, tears welling up.

Bradley said it’s been an honor helping with the project and watching Sosa’s growth.

Sosa said when he was a freshman he was shy to the point where it was hard to talk to people. He retreated into a shell after being bullied for so long.

Now he’s much more confidant, easy with conversation and eager to pursue a career in business entrepreneurship and small business administration. He will attend Metro State University in Denver this fall.

Working on the Peace Garden helped him blossom.

“I never would have known that I enjoyed fundraising,” he said. “I really want to do that for a living.”

Basalt resident Robin Waters has played a critical role in helping Sosa complete his vision for the Peace Garden during his senior year. Seniors in the Roaring Fork School District, which includes Basalt, must complete a Capstone Project. Waters is his mentor for the Capstone Project.

Sosa’s project is not only to complete the garden, but also to produce a video on the project and instruction manual on how other students can pursue the vision. Emmy Award-winning videographer Barry Stevenson is helping with the video.

Roaring Fork High School student Drew Broadhurst is working on providing the electrical wiring for the Peace Garden as his Capstone Project.

Waters said she has been impressed at how calm Sosa has remained while juggling school finals, college applications and the project. He has a knack for recruiting people to help, and many people in the community have embraced the project.

“Before you even ask, people want to be part of the project,” Waters said.

Sosa is also taking steps to assure the Peace Garden remains part of Basalt High School well into the future. Incoming freshmen in a special Pre-Collegiate program at the school will be recruited to oversee its maintenance over their four years at the school, then pass on the duties when they are seniors.

The Basalt Town Council and Pitkin County commissioners have honored Sosa for his work on the Peace Garden. He said working on the project has been invaluable for him.

“It turned my negative experience with school into a positive one,” he said.

For more on the roots of the Peace Garden in Mauricio’s own words www.facebook.com/ThePeaceGardenBasaltCO/ and click the “about” link.

A ribbon cutting for the Peace Garden will be held June 1 at 4 p.m. at Basalt High School.

scondon@aspentimes.com