Bayside Community Center’s Level Up SD program addresses health and wellness

The Garden Therapy program was a pilot project that helped Bayside expand its diversity of programs.

Gardening is often recognized for its therapeutic value – spending time outdoors improves mental health, relieves stress and anxiety, and can increase feelings of well-being. With that intent, Bayside Community Center launched its 2021 Level Up SD Garden Therapy Program last year, one of many programs offered by 88 nonprofit partners throughout San Diego County. .

After a year of pandemic restrictions and online learning in the 2020-2021 school year, the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education has committed $31 million to augment its enhanced learning program in partnership with the San Diego Foundation. A year later, the San Diego Foundation is now accepting grant applications for the second summer of Level Up SD programming.

Bayside Garden Therapy Program

When the Bayside Community Center, located in Linda Vista, offered its program last year, it hoped to connect high school students to the natural world, improve their personal effectiveness, improve their problem-solving and teamwork skills, and reduce stress and anxiety.

Bayside Community Center Garden

Held at Montgomery Middle School, the four-week pilot program included instruction from two certified horticultural therapists and ultimately enrolled 19 students. The opportunity with Level Up SD allowed the Bayside Community Center to launch a program that had been under discussion for some time. Additionally, by participating in Level Up SD, the Bayside Community Center was able to gain valuable media exposure for the program, which center staff hope will help raise awareness of the program and raise funds. Although short-lived, the program was undoubtedly a success, based on feedback from students and their families.

Program participants

“[My son] was treated with kindness and compassion and staff encouraged her interest in gardening and provided her with tools to continue,” one parent said after the program ended. “He loved it…It helped him reconnect with the kids, reduced his anxiety and it was very calming.”

Program Participants

“It’s an amazing camp and everyone is so nice,” said one student participant. “It’s very fun and awesome. I think almost everyone will like this program.

After a long year and a half at home, students were able to experience firsthand the restorative effects of gardening.

Another parent said, “It was a wonderful class, with very knowledgeable and wonderful teachers, my two sons enjoyed it so much! Great opportunity to learn outdoors about nature, the environment and gardening while connecting and making new friendships, we were thrilled to participate and look forward to joining the class again next summer!

Apply for Level Up SD

Based on the incredible success of the Summer 2021 program, the San Diego Foundation and San Diego Unified School District have renewed Level Up SD for Summer 2022. San Diego nonprofits are invited to apply for a 2021 Level Up SD Summer Grant by noon, Friday, February 18. Approximately $14 million is made available to San Diego community, youth development and education nonprofits for summer programming.

Level Up SD is a reimagined summer school experience, providing extraordinary academic and enrichment programming for San Diego Unified K-12 students enrolled in district-operated schools.

About Bayside Community Center

Founded in 1932, Bayside Community Center’s mission is to empower its diverse community to improve its quality of life through service, education and advocacy. Bayside will celebrate 90 years of service to the San Diego community in 2022. Learn more at

Jill E. Washington