Meet Intern Will Eichenberger
On his first day of work as an intern, Will Eichenberger helped water a honeybee hive — something many high-schoolers would find daunting. But Will, though visually impaired, went about the task with aplomb.
Will, a rising junior from Charlottesville, Va., joined the Garden as an intern in a partnership with the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired. The center’s Learning Independence, Feeling Empowered (LIFE) program is a five-week residential program for high school students with visual impairments. Its goal is to expose participants to experiences that build confidence and life skills, as well as work experience.
As part of the LIFE program, students can elect to take part in a 2-week-long, half-day work experience. As a result of the program’s partnership with the Garden, Will joined our Children’s Garden team and worked closely with me. He focused his internship on horticulture, spending most of his time supporting the Youth Summer Volunteer Program participants in the Community Kitchen Garden, growing vegetables for FeedMore. On a personal level, Will was a great coworker; easy-going, flexible, personable, and kept us all entertained with fascinating stories from his weekend adventures of zip lining and rock climbing.
Will also practiced his skills in mobility and orientation at the Garden. Daniel Ashman, the rehabilitation center’s activities and special projects coordinator, explained that this practice helps generate a greater sense of independence through problem solving — “to know that one can traverse both familiar and unfamiliar areas.” The winding pathways and various walkways within the Garden make it a great place to practice these skills, Ashman added.
This is the Garden’s second year partnering with the center and its LIFE program. “Lewis Ginter has taken it upon themselves with other community partners to re-invent how blind Virginians interact within the garden,” Ashman said. “From tactile maps, to descriptive tours, to integrating high-tech accessibility solutions, Lewis Ginter has opened a dialogue with agencies and individuals to understand the needs of the blind and is striving to meet those needs. Our summer work experience is one facet of how our continued partnership with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden expands, as our knowledge and experience with one another grows.”