The Fresno State TARGET program, which offers specialized counseling and tutoring for students ages 18-22, was recognized among the state’s top education programs by the California School Board Association at its 36th annual Golden Bell Awards ceremony Saturday, Dec. 5, in San Diego.

As one of 62 outstanding programs recognized at the event, the Kremen School of Education and Human Development’s program was selected in the special education, multi-level category and was the only honoree from Fresno County and the only from a university.

Officially named Techniques for Access Reaching Goals and Employment Training (TARGET), the program is coordinated by the Fresno State Rehabilitation Counseling Program and the Sanger Unified School District. It helps maximize students’ ability to lead independent and productive lives and acquire job skills.

Horticulture student

Horticulture Students

The program has worked with 50 students in its seven years of existence, including 14 students in 2015.

Students work with the food science and horticulture programs in Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, and they take kinesiology and general education classes while gaining employment training though campus work opportunities.

Horticulture nursery manager Calliope Correia began teaching the horticulture section in 2009 as part of her master’s degree research in interdisciplinary studies in plant science and rehabilitation counseling. Her students build raised planting beds, choose and grow vegetables for recipes they research and donate part of their harvest to the Fresno State Student Cupboard — a free food and hygiene pantry for University students.

“The students learn so much besides how to grow plants,” Correia said. “Many come in fairly quiet and sometimes reserved, but as they learn to nurture the plants and watch them grow, they open up so much. It’s a special process to watch. At the same time, they add social skills and confidence that carry over to their jobs on campus in the dining hall, nursery and Student Cupboard, as well as in the rest of their lives.”

She also exposes students to other parts of the 1,000-acre campus farm and the Gibson Farm Market with homework projects to illustrate the entire “farm to fork” process of growing, processing and selling food.

For the past four years, food science and nutrition professor Dr. Lisa Herzig and her community nutrition class have worked with TARGET students as part of a service-learning project to help them learn to prepare simple recipes while practicing food and kitchen safety.

“The TARGET students are so excited to get into the kitchen to learn about cooking,” Herzig said. “This fall we used pumpkin empanada and traditional quesadilla recipes to teach basic cooking skills while reinforcing healthier eating habits. We love how the program grows every year while giving our food science and nutrition students an excellent teaching opportunity.”

About 400 programs were nominated for Golden Bell Awards. Programs were judged on innovation, impact, school board and leadership support and potential for sustainability and replication.