Student Awarded Whataburger Scholarship for Community Garden Idea

MESA, Arizona – July 24, 2018 – Ariana Granger, a Mesa Community College student, won a $1,000 scholarship in Whataburger’s WhataBigIdea contest. Students were asked to submit videos, artwork or texts explaining how their big idea could change the world. Granger’s idea is the establishment of a community garden at MCC’s Red Mountain Campus to grow fresh produce to supply the Mesa Market, an on-campus food pantry for students struggling with food insecurity.

The garden is just the start of her big idea. Granger hopes that one day every state will have community gardens with housing units on the grounds for homeless populations who wish to work in the gardens along with volunteer staff who will teach career and gardening skills.

Granger, who submitted her idea to the contest on a whim, on the day it was due, said she will use the money to pay for her fall classes at MCC.

“I pay for school out of my own pocket,” said Granger, 21. “I don’t have any grants or scholarships, so this will go toward paying for my fall semester. It’s a great help.”

Granger, who is vice president of the student government at the Red Mountain Campus, developed the community garden with her advisor, MCC geography professor Niccole Cerveny, Ph.D . Campus faculty, staff and student clubs donated artwork and trees, such as lemon, pomegranate, Mexican lime, peach, dwarf orange and plum, for the garden.

Cerveny and Granger plan to involve more students and community members in the future and establish a composting program, part of an undergraduate research project, starting in the fall.

“The composting project will be a great opportunity for Niccole’s sustainability classes,” Granger said. “The garden will be a great opportunity for students in aquaponics classes to become involved as well.”

Granger’s major and career interest is global health, specifically the nonprofit sector. She plans to graduate from MCC in spring 2019 with an associate’s degree and a certificate in global citizenship. Granger will transfer to Arizona State University to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Granger said the project fits nicely with her career interest and she appreciates the guidance of Cerveny as the garden develops.

“I’ve always loved plants, but this is my first hands-on experience creating a garden,” Granger said. Commenting on her advisor, Granger adds, “She [Dr. Cerveny] has been amazing. She shows me the ropes and then says, ‘here, have them.’”

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Media contact: Dawn Zimmer,, 480-461-7892

Mesa Community College is nationally recognized for service-learning, career and technical programs, civic engagement and innovative approaches to higher education. The college serves as a resource for career readiness, transfer education, workforce development and lifelong learning. Host to more than 30,000 students annually, MCC offers more than 150 degree and certificate programs at its two campuses and additional locations. MCC is an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution with a diverse student body that enriches the learning experience. Renowned faculty are dedicated to student success, providing the education and training that empowers MCC students to compete locally and nationally. MCC, located in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona, is one of 10 colleges comprising the Maricopa County Community College District. For additional information visit

Mesa Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA)

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Publication Date: 
Tuesday, July 24, 2018