TOP: Sudie Minamyer, Catherine Ware, Sandy Lasch and Donna McGinnis
BOTTOM: Alex Garcia, Tatyanna Bintu-Raquib and Donna Street

This year, Naples Garden Club again provided funding for three summer interns for the Naples Botanical Garden. In August, as their terms were coming to a close, Donna McGinnis, President and CEO of the Botanical Garden, invited Sandy Lasch, Catherine Ware and Sudie Minamyer to lunch to get to know the students we had sponsored. The three college-aged interns talked about their backgrounds and their experiences this summer.

Donna Street is a recent graduate of Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL, majoring in Community Art. She used her art skills in her assignment in the Idea Garden, where she “keeps it looking nice” and also did some planting. She is working on a container zoo garden, with spider plants, zebra plants, Lamb’s ear and fishtail fern. She is also helping with the succulent planting this fall, and has been working with the Idea Garden Committee as they select succulents and materials for the alligator and other installations. Donna loves being in the garden. She told us, “Ladybugs are my favorite animals.” Her internship at NBG has inspired her to look for a job at a Botanical Garden, something she had never considered before.

Alex Garcia is a Junior at the University of Florida where she is a plant genetics major. Her studies involved much time in the laboratory, and she was pleased to now experience the interaction of plants and people as she worked in the Enabling Garden. She enjoyed playing plant bingo with the children and working with the visually impaired students from Lighthouse of Collier County who came to visit. She recalled one elderly gentleman with memory problems who was stirred by the aroma of the ylang-ylang tree. “I fell in love with my wife with that smell,” he said. Ylang-ylang is a featured scent in Chanel #5.

Tatyanna Bintu-Raqib is completing her studies at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in Fort Myers. She majored in Environmental Studies, and appreciated the school’s focus on sustainability, with solar panels and green roofs. She volunteered in the school’s Food Forest, where there are over 125 tropical and subtropical edible plants and trees. At the Botanical Garden this summer, Tatyanna was the Florida Garden intern. She worked with Chad Washburn and was interested in the environmental perspective at the Garden. She hopes to work with Americorp this fall, and has an interest in improving the plight of lower socioeconomic communities which are “food deserts.” These are areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient travelling distance. She feels her time at the Botanical Garden this summer has given her hands-on experience and strengthened her determination to bring healthy, affordable food to those in need.

The Garden Club members who attended the luncheon left with a better understanding of the importance of the internship program. The interns helped the garden through the summer work that they did; they filled in when some Garden employees were on vacation. However, the interns benefitted as well. The time they spent helped them get experience in many important areas of horticulture and emphasized its importance. Not only are we supporting the Botanical Garden, we are also nurturing, growing, and contributing to the leaders and problem solvers of the future.

by Sudie Minamyer, President, Naples Garden Club