Andrea Farra, a horticultural studies instructor at St. Gabriel’s Hall, guides students Nelson (center) and Mark in preparing plants for sale. Now in its 10th year, the program offers career training and life-skills to the school’s at-risk youth. (Photo by Sarah Webb)


Audubon, PA – Years ago, a Christian Brother planted a patch of day lilies at St. Gabriel’s AHall, a residential treatment program for adjudicated youth located in Audubon.

Today, those same plants are blooming — along with cantaloupes, chives, tomatoes, gourds and goji berries — thanks to a horticultural training program at the school, which is part of St. Gabriel’s System, a division of archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS).


“Our greenhouse is an antique structure that was used to start Longwood Gardens,” said principal John Mulroney. “We found it on eBay at a great price.”

Victor (left) and Mark, students in the horticultural program at St. Gabriel’s Hall, inspect plants during a weekly class. The program combines career training and life skills for youth at the school, which is part of archdiocesan Catholic Social Services. (Photo by Sarah Webb)

Now in its tenth year, the horticultural program prepares young men for careers in gardening and landscaping. The initiative is one of four career technical education (CTE) modules offered at St. Gabriel’s, a Middle States accredited facility in which 143 young men between the ages of 11 and 18 are now enrolled. The other three CTE tracks offer instruction in culinary arts, building maintenance and construction, and Microsoft Office systems.

Students in the horticultural program gain hands-on experience through a range of groundskeeping tasks on St. Gabriel’s extensive campus, which includes a sanctuary garden for meditation, several plant beds and sweeping lawns.