Green Guardian: Jairo from Chicago

buildOn Senior Service Superlatives: Green Guardian
Jairo Javier, Benito Juarez Community Academy, Chicago

buildOn Senior Service Superlatives showcase some of the standout seniors from the buildOn Class of 2015. With 92% of buildOn students graduating and going on to college with more than 150,000 hours of service contributed, we have a lot to celebrate this year!


For Jairo Javier, planting a garden isn’t just about growing veggies. It’s about cultivating the seeds that grow strong communities.

That’s why the graduating senior from Chicago’s Benito Juarez Community Academy is so proud of the Juarez Garden, where buildOn students are growing fruits, vegitables and herbs in neatly manicured beds outside their school. A passionate gardener, Jairo led and organized the Juarez Garden project as a way to green up the school and Pilsen neighborhood and get his classmates involved in gardening. He didn’t realize how much impact the garden could have on their West Side neighborhood.

“I thought everybody should get a little dose of a gardening experience,” he says. “I didn’t see how much it would benefit the community at the time, but I do see it now.”

This realization came last summer when Jairo was tending the Juarez Garden. A woman walked by and asked if she could try a strawberry, and Jairo enthusiastically told her to take whatever she wanted. The following day, the woman returned with her children, and Jairo realized they were really in need of fresh food in the community. That’s why this growing season, Jairo his classmates are donating their crops to local food pantries and inviting their neighbors to get involved.

“The more we get the actual community involved, the more people can work together and understand each other,” Jairo says. “It’s something we’ve been working on with buildOn – how do we get people to come together and talk to each other more? Community gardens seem like a great way.”


This graduation season, show your #GRADitude for buildOn by investing in future graduates like Jairo.



Bringing people together and helping to feed the hungry are important to Jairo, but it’s violence and shootings that Jairo sees as his community’s biggest struggle. He’s confident that the community garden can help stem the tide of violence in Chicago, too.

“Once people realize they can work together, more people will follow,” Jairo says. “They’ll see it’s safe to be outside. As soon as everybody’s outside working together, the likelihood of gangbangers wanting to do their thing is going to go down. They’re not going to want to be seen.”

Jairo’s commitment to a greener Chicago goes beyond the Juarez Garden. He’s worked with students to get solar panels installed at Juarez Academy, he is helping to raise money for a machine to refill water bottles at the school, and he’s the first to volunteer for buildOn green service projects like clearing invasive plants from local forest preserves. He’s also adamant about keeping the school and neighborhood free of litter.

“It’s something we talk about in buildOn all the time – if something doesn’t look good it’s likely to end up looking worse. People are more likely to mess it up,” Jairo says.

This summer Jairo is also planning to return to work at Benton House, a local community center where he interned last year through buildOn’s Summer Service Corps. Jairo maintained Benton House’s community garden, helping to produce fresh food that was distributed from the community center’s food pantry.

This fall Jairo will be attending Ripon College in Wisconsin, where he received a scholarship for his commitment to vegetarianism and animal rights. He plans to major in business management with the goal of opening a vegan restaurant in Pilsen powered by solar electricity and serving dishes with fresh produce grown on-site.

Jairo will be the first in his family to attend college. He admits he’s a bit nervous, but he’s ready for the challenge.

“I feel some pressure. (My family is) expecting a lot from me because I’m the first,” Jairo says. “College is kind of scary, but I’m going to do it.”


This graduation season, show your #GRADitude for buildOn by investing in future graduates like Jairo.



Posted June 5, 2015 in News, Stories by buildOn

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buildOn’s Senior Service Superlatives celebrate students like Jairo who are making a difference through service. A passionate environmentalist, Jairo...

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