Alejandra Gallardo

Garden School Foundation - City Seedlings Intern

How did you hear about your internship?

I talked to my summer 2017 supervisor, Kate Ritger, about my internship plans and she connected me with an alum who had also worked with her during her undergrad. The alum, Hanna Newman, had lived in LA for a year after graduating from CSB/SJU and she shared some organizations she got to work with in the area. GSF was one of the sites on the list, so I looked them up and reached out to them.

How did you obtain this internship?

I sent my resume and a cover letter to an email on the GSF website; I don’t think I had the right person, but they were able to forward my materials to the person who would review them. There wasn’t any official application process, so I followed up every couple of weeks to check the progress. I was able to schedule a phone interview during Easter Break and continued to follow up on the status of my internship until I got a yes!

Please describe the responsibilities of your internship

During the first three weeks of my internship, I was a camp counselor for the City Seedlings summer camp. As a camp counselor, I worked with children ages 5-13 and created activities that encouraged them to be curious about their food and the environmental systems around them. We had access to repurposed materials such as wood planks, egg cartons, and newspaper for crafts. Each counselor led two large-group activities every week and we were able to be as creative as we wanted every step of the way. Campers were taught to prepare their own snacks and lunches with the intention of coaxing independence, expanding their palettes, and teaching recipes. There was also a lot of interpersonal relationship building to overcome camp drama and overall team building while teaching garden skills. The rest of the summer involved working on projects to maintain the urban garden and prepare it for the beginning of the school year. We removed a portion of the struggling orchard and layed out an unconventional perennial garden. We set up paths, mixed soil, and planted seeds for veggies and herbs that would be used for pizzas in the fall. Other activities included building compost piles, building wooden shelves, hosting volunteer parties, and community workshops.

How did your internship connect (or not connect) to your coursework?

I found myself asking questions to further understand the context of my internship site and their projects; this line of thinking aligns with the framework from ENVR 360: Environmental History. When working with the kids, I found myself leaning more on my ENVR 150 (Intro to Environmental Studies) and ENVR 175 (Earth Systems & Science) coursework to build a foundation for them to understand the garden setting. We talked about the inputs that plants need to grow, the nutrient composition in compost, and the ways in which our individual actions impact our environment.

How did your internship connect (or not connect) to your planned career?

This internship gave me insight into the realm of environmental education and urban agriculture development. The education piece is something that I value, but don’t see as my personal specialty. It was really helpful to have a supervisor that was a middle school environmental studies program teacher; I asked my questions and had great conversations about her experiences engaging students in impactful learning. Even though this wasn’t tied to my career goals, I discovered an interest for collaborative learning in the workplace and made this a learning outcome for my internship. I would like to continue practicing collaborative learning in my future workplaces. On the other hand, I want to continue learning about urban planning. My experience helped me conceptualize water, food, and access issues in urban communities.

In what ways has Jackson Fellows helped you develop professionally?

Jackson Fellows challenged me to understand my purpose as a leader out in the “real world.” My cohort was made up of committed campus leaders and I know I can look to them for support. I learned about my personal brand as a young professional, engaging as an ethical leader, and thinking about my areas of growth. Both the ES internship component and Jackson Fellows required a Learning Goals component and this helped me tailor my internship, so that I could get the best out of it. Moving forward, Jackson Fellows has taught me how to continue seeking meaningful experiences and knowing how to market myself in a way that demonstrates my skill set, but also my capacity for growth.