Three Students Take Part in Parks Leadership Program

Teenagers’ summer jobs often involve flipping burgers and doing retail sales, but for the three Bronx kids who are participating in the City Parks Foundation’s Youth Leadership Program, earning some money has been anything but routine.

The students have been working full-time at the Learning Gardens at Grove Hill on East 158th Street and Eagle Avenue. They have been helping to run the gardens as a learning center for children from local nursery schools, using it as a tool to both learn themselves, and teach much younger kids about ecosystems and life sciences.

The students, Cherokee Brown, Jayner Solano, and Scott Soto all live in the surrounding Morrisania/Melrose areas and are preparing to begin high school this fall. The program began the first week in July and ended on Saturday, August 13.

Brown found out about the program through her school, J.H.S. 298. She did not have much interest in biology or science coming into the program, but she called it a “great summer job.”

“Seeing how the kids connect to the garden when we teach them things, you can see in their eyes that they really understand,” said the 14-year-old, who is headed for the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan.

The Youth Leadership program is run through four nearby schools, M.S. 301, P.S. 157, P.S. 140 and J.H.S. 298. Students were selected by teachers to participate in science and leadership programs during the school year.

Out of that group, about 10 across the city were chosen to work in community gardens. The City Parks Foundation is sponsoring similar programs at gardens in Bushwick, Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens.

Solano, of Boston Road, got involved through a science teacher at his school. Unlike Brown, he always had a passion for life sciences, but nearly got passed over for the program.

“He had picked out certain students,” the 15-year-old said. “But I really wanted to get involved. So I asked, because that’s my interest, biology. The experience is great. Working with little kids and helping the community.”

Solano, Brown and Soto have been able to get down in the dirt, among the garden’s plants and teach several groups of toddlers per day about things like where seeds come from and how worms are vital to helping plants grow.

Geimy Colon has been administering the program in the Bronx for the past seven years. She devises the curriculum and oversees the teenagers while they’re in the garden and helps run the academic-year portion of the program during the winter. However, it’s really all about getting outside

“Our main mission is to connect people and green spaces,” the Baychester resident said. “The garden serves as an outdoor classroom and the plants serve as teaching tools.”

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