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by Erin Wright, Children’s Garden Educator and Horticulturist, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

The Children’s Garden has been fortunate to host an intern from Richmond-based Partnership for the Future for several summers.  This summer, we worked with Kayla Keplinger, a Henrico High School student.  We certainly appreciated working with Kayla this summer.  Below is Kayla’s take on her summer in the Children’s Garden.

In the summer before our senior year in high school, most of us are frantically searching to find a summer job to earn some extra money and a way to pass the time. That search landed me here at Lewis Ginter as a summer intern with Partnership for the Future. I asked for a job that would keep me on my feet and out of a cubicle and that is exactly what I got! I worked in the Children’s Garden doing work mainly behind the scenes, helping to keep things in order and well maintained. There was always a variety of things for me to and they always made sure it didn’t become monotonous—Tuesdays were spent researching Japan and working on a puppet show; Thursdays were spent out in the garden for Horticulture purposes. Whether I was deadheading basil or refilling glue bottles, each day had a flair of its own. I loved everything about working here.

My favorite experiences here has been interacting with the staff. The garden is filled with unique people, all who offer something different. The environment here is so important and I could see no reason why any guest would be dissatisfied with the service the staff provides. They all do so much and even when the job is tough, they still always manage to have a smile on their faces, whether they know you or not. I never once heard one of them complain. I had actually never visited the Garden prior to working here, but I felt welcome from the very beginning. Everyone was so kind to me and eager to make this experience worthwhile. It was amazing to see where people started in their careers, and how they ended up here in the Garden, where they all seemed pretty content to stay.

The Garden itself was wonderful.  Working in a place where there is always a flower to stare at or a butterfly flying past is something you can’t help but appreciate. The buzz of the cicadas and the children playing outside next a patch of vegetables create a unique atmosphere that can only be found in a place like this. It is ever-changing and beautiful and it is so full of life. To be able to pick a vegetable and it eat, and to watch a growing cycle in front of your eyes is beautiful in itself, and a wonderful thing to work for.

And with all the joys, there has to be something I didn’t like, right? Well, I enjoyed all of it but I would have to say my least favorite part was the heat! We have had an incredibly hot summer this year and it has taken a toll on all of us, I’m sure. On my first day here, it was one of those brutal days in the upper nineties.  However, I got used to the heat and learned to really not mind spending the morning out in the garden, coming in sweaty as can be and covered in dirt. It seemed natural after a while and it didn’t really bother me; in fact, I actually started to like it.

I learned a lot during the 6 weeks I’ve spent here and I am extremely grateful for all of it. I learned a bit about the plants, vegetables, and joys of dirt. I learned what truly goes into maintaining a garden of this size and that the team of experts that put their efforts into this garden daily, are normal people who have a passion for bringing the joy of plants to the public.  I learned that hard work is good work and is always worth it in the end. I wouldn’t give it up for the world. As I said, I had never been to the Garden before but you can bet I’ll be telling all my friends and returning whenever I get the chance! It’s a beautiful, ever-changing place and I really learned to appreciate that. This job experience was far better than anything I could have gotten while sitting at a desk all day or taking orders at a fast food restaurant. I couldn’t have asked for any better. Thanks to all of you here at the Garden for making this possible and so enjoyable for me, and I hope everyone continues to enjoy the Garden as much as I have.

I look forward to seeing how the Garden continues to grow and evolve in the years to come.

Thank you for such a wonderful summer!

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