4-H/Middle Earth Student Ambassadors for Community Health (SACH) unveiled Mariposa Park in Bound Brook, New Jersey during a grand re-opening celebration on August 3 with food, crafts, face painting, balloon tying, and live monarch butterflies.
For the past year, the teen members of SACH shaped plans to create positive change and to promote unity in the community, healthy living for residents, safety for younger children, and revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood. One of the first steps involved students petitioning to rename the site Mariposa Park—“mariposa” is Spanish for butterfly—to symbolize its transformation from a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.
They chose this project to promote unity in the community, healthy living for residents, safety for younger children, and revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood.
SACH collaborated with Bound Brook’s Town Council, Recreation Department, the newly-formed Garden Committee, and Department of Works to plan the renovation of the neglected park. By adding art murals, crosswalks, a free library with books in English and Spanish, landscaping, picnic tables, grilling space, and an educational seating area, students believe the area will thrive again.
As work began this summer, a local resident asked, “Why are you choosing this park? Nobody cares about this place.” For many years it seemed no one was willing to devote time or resources to the neighborhood. The students hope that these changes will show that fellow residents and local government officials value the community.
To encourage the community to visit once again, the teens created a Storybook Trail that will be installed in 12 locations throughout downtown Bound Brook, creating a trail leading to Mariposa Park. The story was written and illustrated by the students and highlights the park’s theme of transformation as it traces the journey of a caterpillar evolving into a butterfly. In each location a podium will display a page of the story in English and Spanish.
The students also invited local artists to design butterfly sculptures and enlisted local businesses to sponsor these art installations. A live painting event featuring the artists was held at the Bound Brook Food Truck Festival in July. Each butterfly will be paired with a Storybook Trail podium along a mile-long trail to promote healthy movement and the joy of reading.
SACH hopes that the space will be used for educational purposes, and held an inaugural class on July 29 with rock-painting and outdoor yoga class that was well attended by neighborhood children.
Mariposa Park received a warm welcome from the local community as around 100 guests joined the Members of SACH, including Bound Brook Mayor Robert Fazen and members of the Borough Council. Somerset County Freeholder Brian Gallagher was also in attendance and shared words of appreciation with the students when he declared that the work they accomplished was “magic” for the community. The grand re-opening concluded with an unveiling of the completed butterfly sculptures.
The 4-H/Middle Earth Student Ambassadors were chosen for this initiative through a grant from New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), which seeks to empower young people to learn about issues that affect their community and to utilize tools and support systems already in place to make a difference. Somerset County 4-H, a youth development organization, and Middle Earth, a youth support and mentoring nonprofit, partnered to advise and coach these youth. You can follow the work of the Student Ambassadors on Facebook @BBSACH or Instagram @bb_sach.
The project not only helped the students realize that they can make a real difference in their own community, it taught them valuable skills that will help them become the next generation of leaders in Somerset County. The program instills skills in leadership, business, government operations, problem-solving, teamwork, and creativity.