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A new ride at Fusion Charter
Fusion Charter  cart
Fusion Charter staff members pose in front of their recently built greenhouse with their new Cushman Hauler Pro Elite cart from Garton Tractor Tuesday afternoon (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

The Fusion Charter School campus in Turlock has been undergoing a makeover in the past four years. In that time, the school has built a greenhouse, garden beds with irrigation and a peace pole with benches surrounding it. They are all projects completed under the “Agriscience for All Learners” program, which encourages career technical education and for students to explore careers in agriscience.

To help the staff and students and their gardening, a special delivery was made to the campus Tuesday afternoon: a brand new Cushman Hauler Pro Elite cart from Garton Tractor. The state-of-the-art vehicle will help the campus community haul tools from their storage bins to the greenhouse and garden. The cart and the campus projects were all paid for and built thanks to the Specialized Secondary Programs grant from the California Department of Education, worth $260,000.

“We were lucky we were selected by the state to have the grant, and we’re really grateful,” said Fusion Charter CTE coordinator Daniel Vera. “We're a nontraditional school site here in Turlock, working with a lot less students, but higher need. Same thing with the program, it’s agriculture, but through a social-emotional lens.”

Fusion charter peace pole
The peace pole and surrounding garden at Fusion Charter was a special donation from retired educator Deb Lazarri (Photo contributed).

“The state's always promoting career technical education. They always push agriscience in our area,” added Susan Nisan, Fusion Charter principal. “A lot of our families do work in agriculture and a lot of our population is very low income, so we've been able to get several really helpful grants and they really do make a difference.”

The Agriscience for All Learners program was originally led by former Fusion Charter educators Cassie Gocke and Deb Lazarri four years ago. Vera has taken over for the duo, ensuring that the projects get done.

The greenhouse was completed earlier this year with the help of Ledbetter Construction and volunteers from Love Turlock. The garden beds and their irrigation system were built by Westside Landscape and Concrete. The peace pole was a special donation from Lazarri.

“We're such a small school, so we can't do everything that the big high schools in town do, so we have to choose those few activities that are going to be of greatest benefit to our students,” Nisan explained. “Science is definitely right in there.”

“For our students, maybe going to a four-year [university] is not their primary goal. But what could be a goal is going to a trade school and learning a trade,” Vera added. “We play to our students that have been traditionally disengaged in school. Well, how do we get them engaged in the learning process? And how can you make a living? Well, the trades are a big, big player here in the Valley, if not the main player.”

The campus also expects to have chicken coops built and murals painted in the near future.

“It’s very nice to see these new additions to our campus,” Nisan said. “And I’m excited to see all the things we can do with these new resources.”