As our small group of Honors students stood on the Alpha House lawn on Wednesday, we put worldly worries in our rearview mirror. We had just wished luck to all the students who stayed behind to do homework or attend classes, and we set off. The walk to the New York Botanical Gardens was short and laughter-filled. Upon arrival, we made our way to the gift shop and picked up our gift cards, which were purchased in advance by the Fordham Honors Program. Once the anticipation had substantially built, we went outside to begin the walk itself.
We made a bee-line for the pond where Kusama’s reflective pool was during her exhibit last year, where we saw asters, pitcher plants, and cardinal flowers (among many others!) Across from the big pond sits a formation of rocks with water flowing into a little pool. We saw dozens of tadpoles happily swimming about in the pool and wiggling their little tails, kicking silt into the water. It might just be my imagination, but they looked bigger than last week. I hope they grow up to be big and strong, like the numerous frogs we observed chilling around the pool. Some sat in the water, and others clung to the (nearly vertical) rock faces opposite us. One frog had situated itself in a current of water flowing into the pool — the image of bliss. Another frog, similarly moisturized, sat in a pile of wet moss, perfectly camouflaged.
After the thrilling frog pond adventure, we meandered through the Thain Family Forest towards the waterfall, which has been a Botans Walkover staple for over a year. We elected to go to the overlook to get a good view. The leaves-on-rocks combination made for a treacherous hike, but the destination was worth it. We peered over the railing at the waterfall and the people walking below. The leaves looked stunning silhouetted against the sky. I tried to take a picture, but it didn’t do justice for the scene before me. Just as we were about to leave, a red-tailed hawk decided to make a dramatic entrance into our line of vision. It perched on a tree maybe thirty or forty feet away from us, magically at eye level. In its talons was a rather unfortunate chipmunk. We paid our respects to the chipmunk and departed.
The sun was painting the gardens gold when we returned to the gift shop. The time we spent there was fruitful — I was particularly captivated by the array of graphic socks for $10 a pair. We set off for Fordham once more, feeling content from our moment of peace and respite.
Through the generosity of the Rose Hill Honors Program, I had the opportunity this summer to intern in the events department at the Oklahoma City Myriad Botanical Gardens. The Myriad Gardens is a public, 17-acre urban park in the middle of the downtown district that hosts a large number of events for the community. The Gardens’ mission is “to increase the quality of life and vibrancy by creating and sustaining a world-class public garden and offering quality horticultural, cultural and recreational programs and events for all.”
In my role on the events team, I was able to develop my problem-solving, professional correspondence, and project management skills. My experience was invaluable in exploring my future career path in the nonprofit sector. However, my favorite part of the internship was developing and executing my own public event, “JUMP! At Myriad Botanical Gardens.” The goal of the event was to provide an engaging opportunity for the community to participate in a free, fitness-focused jump rope event, with an emphasis on educating participants on jump rope culture and heart health. I managed all aspects of the event, including securing sponsors, contracting performers, budgeting, and marketing. Ultimately, I wanted to create an environment that fostered community building. I procured a sponsorship from the American Heart Association, and they provided free jump ropes to all participants. The event went smoothly, and it was a joy to see the smiles on many faces, young and old.
One of the main concerns of the Myriad Gardens is accessibility, whether financial, physical, or social. I consider their attention to this issue extremely important to the fabric of Oklahoma City. We hosted sensory activities for children with disabilities, a variety of free weekly fitness classes, and many cultural events. Our free summer movie series was a big draw for many individuals experiencing homelessness in the downtown area. By providing free, educational, and interactive activities, the Myriad Gardens has transformed itself from a green space into a key community magnet. I am incredibly grateful to the Honors Program for granting me an Honors Summer Internship Fellowship, which allowed me to learn from this organization. It has been wonderful to aid in the growth, vitality, and visibility of the downtown district of my home city, especially as an Urban Studies major. I look forward to sharing my newfound knowledge in accessibility-focused event planning and community building with the Fordham Honors community!