For many students, summer is looking a little different this year. But social distancing and virtual summer camps hasn’t stopped incoming MacArthur senior Tori Arellano from packing her days full of innovative hard work. Aside from a summer job and cheer camp, Arellano also has a business internship with Study USA, student body treasurer duties, and her passion project of tending to more than 8,000 fruit and vegetable plants.

Since learning about the severe food desert in her community, Arellano has dedicated endless hours to finding a sustainable way to provide fresh, affordable food for her fellow Irving students. In partnership with Planting Seeds Texas and Juice Plus, Arellano has spearheaded plans for an aeroponic tower garden right in MacArthur’s courtyard.

Each tower will have the capacity to host 44 plants in a volcanic rock substance. The unique structure provides light and water to each plant, creating ideal conditions that expedite plant growth from the typical six to 12 weeks down to just three weeks.

Arellano is certainly not a typical high schooler. Her innovative spirit drew her to MacArthur’s School of Business and Entrepreneurship her freshman year. Over the past three years, she has proven to be a high achiever. As a dedicated DECA member, she made it all the way to the international competition her sophomore year and earned the award of excellence in community service.

“She was a star from the beginning, but her professionalism really skyrocketed her sophomore year,” says assistant coordinator of the School of Business and Entrepreneurship Kelley Watson. “If you make it to [DECA] internationals, that’s no joke. You’re the real deal. You usually don’t get someone that young going to internationals, but Tori made it and nearly had a perfect score.”

This past fall, she was inducted into the National Technical Honor Society, a club that provides networking and learning opportunities to top career and technical education students. As if that were not enough, Arellano is also taking part in a “Learn & Earn” internship at The Study USA this summer. 

Watson, who helped connect Arellano to the summer internship, shares that she will be on a task force at Study USA, where they will assist in developing tools for student-tailored digital learning. Designed to introduce talented youth to the corporate world, this internship is the ideal place for Arellano to put her innovative thinking to work. 

As Arellano looks forward to her final year as a MacArthur Cardinal, she envisions leaving her grow tower garden in the hands of a younger, equally passionate student.

“I’m really hopeful that this year we will find someone who will truly take care of this project once I’m gone,” said Arellano. “Someone who has time to really get passionate about the project and learn more, because there are so many things that go into it that you have to learn.”

Beyond her senior year, Arellano plans to bolster her passion for innovation at either Texas A&M or the University of Chicago, where she plans to major in business and minor in agribusiness. Though she will be several hours away, Arellano plans to continue contributing to the project in hopes of one day establishing a grow tower garden at every Irving ISD campus.