In the southeast corner of Brazil lies the state of Minas Gerais, which produces about one-sixth of the world's coffee. And in the small municipality of Carmo de Minas, you'll find Fazenda Do Serrado farm, a small coffee plantation supported by SMUS's Grade 10 Experiential Program.
The family-run farm supplied hundreds of pounds of beans that students in the School Grounds Coffee cohort roasted and sold last school year. In turn, all the money raised by the SMUS coffee company was donated back to Fazenda Do Serrado to help it become a more sustainable venture.
"We all agreed that we should give the money back to the farmer who was providing us with the beans," says student Nekhil Govender, now in Grade 11. "It felt like the right thing for us to do. We wanted to support someone who is creating sustainable practices."
Reagan Daly, Head of Experiential Education and one of the leads of the School Grounds cohort, says he was impressed by the students' drive to give back to owner Caio Pereira and his coffee farm.
"A lot of students chose the cohort because they're interested in business and entrepreneurship. To keep things authentic and true to that, the goal was to generate as much revenue as they could," he says.
In June, students opened a School Grounds coffee shop for one week on campus and sold drinks, homemade baked goods and bags of roasted beans.
"The students were really motivated to make their business successful. They knew we weren't running a for-profit business and they saw value in making as much money to give back to this initiative," Reagan says.
They earned more than $1,800, which was given to the coffee farm in September.
"Caio is a farmer who is implementing sustainable practices on his farm. With the money we raised, he's been building a solar farm and improving his fermentation process," Nekhil says.
Leadership, Sustainability and Service
The three themes Reagan hopes all Grade 10 cohorts highlight are the importance of leadership, sustainability and service. He says he's incredibly proud that the School Grounds students exemplified all three last year in their support of Caio's farm.
"As students go through the school, I think they want to see themselves as part of a broader community and this is one opportunity for them to have a real-world experience that's genuine and linked to something broader than SMUS," he says.
Experiential learning is about more than just trying something new or learning skills in the real world, it's about growth as young people, Reagan says.
"The overarching mission statement of the program is personal growth through experiential learning, and I would extend personal growth to mean that there are certain character skills we're hoping to develop in our students," Reagan says. "One of those traits is philanthropy and wanting to impact others in a positive way."
That's something that is important to Nekhil too.
"As someone who takes into consideration my role on this planet, even if its a small one, I think it's quite significant to me and it feels good that we can support a coffee farm in Brazil in reducing their environmental footprint."