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BY TEQUILA MINSKY
More than a hundred high school students from across the city met in The Battery last week during their spring vacation to kick off this year’s youth community gardening program for high school and college students.
The GreenThumb Youth Leadership Council — a project of the Parks Department in partnership with the city’s volunteer program NYC Service — gives high school and college students the chance to volunteer at least twice a month from May through July at local community gardens that grow vegetables or flowers.
At the kick-off event, students learned which of the garden sites they would be working in, and met their host gardeners and their college-age mentors, learned about the history of their particular gardens and brainstormed about possible gardening projects. Fifteen community gardens throughout the five boroughs will be hosting the YLC volunteers over the summer.
Broken into groups according the gardens they would be working with the budding gardeners broke the ice with their mentors and hosts by telling each other what they imagined their “spirit vegetable” to be—though most opted for a “spirit fruit,” such as mango, grapes, and dragon fruit.
Afterwards, they toured the Battery Urban Farm.
The volunteers will be expected to put in at least 20 hours of community service over the summer, though many students work even more hours. Some city high schools have community-service graduation requirements, and this summer program counts toward that.
For Jessica Irimescu, an 11th-grader at Bard High School Early College, this won’t be her first time getting her hands dirty, having participated in gardening projects in her Ridgewood, Queens elementary school.
“I love nature and learning to grow things,” she said.
Farzana Ahmed, a student at The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria signed up out of a sense of civic spirit.
“I love helping out in the community,” she said.
The program allows students to learn from community gardeners and college mentors about topics such as botany, agriculture, horticulture and community development, picking up skills including composting and working with raised garden beds, as well as sustainable-aggriculture techniques such as drip irrigation.
Added perks include learning about the neighborhoods where the gardens are located and, most importantly, making a lot of new friends. Many former GreenThumb YLC students are now mentors and stewards of their own community gardens.
“This is a program of intergenerational learning and the passing on of knowledge,” said GreenThumb director Bill LoSasso.