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Lodestar Center partners with City of Phoenix to open Garden of Dreams

September 08, 2011

When students of Arizona State University’s American Humanics program were asked to dream a dream that might be funded by a major foundation they responded with an idea that three years later has taken root.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation asked this question to the students at the 2008 American Humanics Management/Leadership Institute (AHMI). Originally posed as a hypothetical question to stimulate innovative ideas among students, their dream eventually blossomed into a class project, a real-life grant proposal and actual funding of $100,000 that made the project possible.

A group of community partners were brought together to guide the project including faculty, staff and students of the ASU American Humanics program and officials from the City of Phoenix Parks Recreation and Library Department. Thanks to these efforts, the Garden of Dreams at Encanto Park is now a reality.

To celebrate the opening of the garden a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held from 8-9 a.m., Sept, 23, in Encanto Park. The ceremony will include brief remarks from ASU representatives, City of Phoenix officials, community leaders and students who played an important role in this project. This project embodied one of ASU President Michael Crow’s goals of enhancing ASU’s local impact and social embeddedness within our surrounding communities.

“We are enormously proud of our students who conceived the idea for a sustainable botanical type garden within one of our region’s great city parks,” said Dr. Robert F. Ashcraft, executive director of the ASU Lodestar Center and professor of nonprofit studies in ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development. “What a wonderful legacy our students have provided for future generations thanks to the many collaborators they enlisted to assure success.”

The Garden of Dreams is a testament to the beauty of the natural ecology of Phoenix, Arizona and the Sonoran Desert.

“The new garden artfully incorporates the existing landscaping and attractively adds new trees, various native and low-water use ground coverings, seating walls, sidewalks and art space for student-created projects,” said Jan Sherwood, Encanto Park manager with the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. “The new garden space has a serene, relaxing atmosphere, and as it matures it will provide a wonderful shade oasis for visitors.”

In supporting the students, the ASU Lodestar Center and City of Phoenix convened a steering committee of community leaders that guided the project. Student engagement was also an important component of the garden’s success, as it provided students with the opportunity to put classroom concepts of community development into action and to help facilitate a multi-sector collaborative effort.

“When students are given an opportunity to work on a project that has real life significance and implications, they tend to learn more and are engaged at a higher level,” said Lyn McDonough, American Humanics program coordinator senior in ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development. “These experiences are invaluable to our students,” she added.

For complete information about the Encanto Garden of Dreams, visit

ASU American Humanics
Founded in 1980, ASU American Humanics is a program of the ASU College of Public Programs, in association with the ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation. ASU is one of the leading programs in the nation, preparing future nonprofit professionals to work with America’s youth and families. Students pursuing American Humanics certification must complete various co-curricular requirements including active participation in the student association, 18 credit hours of in-class coursework, and a 12 credit hour internship. For more information, visit

ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation

The ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation is recognized as a national leader in undergraduate and graduate nonprofit education, research and technical assistance. The ASU Lodestar Center exists to enhance the quality of life in communities through the advancement of nonprofit leadership practices and provides knowledge and tools to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations, professionals, board members, donors and volunteers by offering a selection of capacity building workshops, conferences, classes, and programs. For more information, visit