Barrington Elementary students created posters, wrote essays and participated in making a video to help promote Lettuce Work, an organization aimed at improving the independence of adults with autism.

Barrington Elementary students created posters, wrote essays and participated in making a video to help promote Lettuce Work, an organization aimed at improving the independence of adults with autism.

Fifth-graders participated in two community service workshops, May 14 and 16, at Barrington, said parent coordinators Lara Holman and Suzanne Black.

"Lettuce Work is a new, non-profit organization that aims to improve the independence and vocational skills of adults with autism," Holman said. "They are building a commercial greenhouse to provide job training and employment opportunities for adults with autism.

"The locally-grown produce will be sold to local grocery stores, hospitals and restaurants," she said.

The company is located near New Albany and plans to build "a fully-operational, self-sustaining commercial greenhouse business that provides school-to-work transition services, job training and employment opportunities for young autistic adults in a professional work environment," according to its website lettucework.org.

Holman said since Lettuce Work is in the early stages of development, the fifth-graders worked to help market the organization. They created autism awareness posters to hang at Barrington, participated in an essay writing contest for the Lettuce Work newsletter and starred in a promotional video.

"A group of Upper Arlington High School students from Amanda Fountain's Communications class came to the workshops to film our students," Holman said.

"The high school students are producing the video as part of their own service learning project requirement."

The high school students were Jeanne Cantwell, Maggie Fitz, Madison Means and Alyssa Robeson.

Holman said Barrington fifth-graders complete a service-learning project each spring in conjunction with their promotion to sixth grade.

"We wanted to support an organization who shared our enthusiasm for creating a meaningful learning experience for students in addition to having a lasting impact on the organization," she said.

Black said they hoped the project would "instill a sense of empowerment in the students that they can make a big difference in the lives of others."

"I hope that we are helping 126 students learn that, although we may all look and act differently, we have similar needs," she said. "I hope they will learn three vital lessons: one, we all have strengths and weaknesses; two, people should be accepting of all individuals regardless of their differences; and three, becoming employed and becoming a contributing member of society is not something we should take for granted."

Holman said her hope is "to develop an on-going, working relationship with Lettuce Work."

She said next year's fifth-graders might be painting fences or helping with other projects at the new greenhouse facility.

Students said they are working to come up with a slogan to replace the current Lettuce Work slogan, which is "Harvesting Hope for Adults with Autism."

Katherine Dominek said she wants people to know that "one in 88 kids is affected by autism."

"They are the same as us, just different in their abilities," she said.

Evelyn Holman said she learned, "There are types of special needs that I didn't know about."

"I liked learning more about autism while having fun making the posters," said Josh Russell.

Holman said the workshops helped students "think out of the box" about how they can make a difference.

"We want the students to be aware of the needs of others, particularly outside of their immediate community," she said. "We are also hoping that in raising awareness of Lettuce Work, families and local restaurant owners will choose produce grown and harvested at Lettuce Work once it becomes available."

Both moms said community service should start as young as possible.

"I remember my mom taking me with her to deliver Meals on Wheels when I was very young," she said. "Helping those in need has always been a passion of hers and by involving me and leading by example, she instilled in me a similar passion."

Holman said, "It's refreshing to have the kids involved in a meaningful project and feel like they are learning something at the same time."