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Communiversity Gardens grows students leadership skills

September 6, 2021

The NIU Communiversity Gardens thrives on its volunteer network of students, faculty, staff and community members. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteer opportunities have been paused for the safety of the NIU community. For the fourth consecutive year, the NIU Communiversity Gardens has received a grant from Tyson Foods sponsored through the Campus Compact. With that funding, the Communiversity Gardens hired a summer intern to manage the gardens during the summer months of peak growing season.

Sammy Smith, NIU senior and Environmental Studies major was selected as the 2021 Summer Intern. Over the course of the summer, Smith completed several hands-on projects such as new weed control methods, borders for plant beds, transplanting existing plants, as well as planting and tending annual vegetables, herbs, and leafy greens. Smith also created a more self-sustaining perennial section in the Gardens, wrote updates for the website, posted regularly to social media and supervised apprentices in the gardens.

The apprentices, along with summer students and select volunteers, worked alongside Smith who said, “working with the apprentices and helping teach students was a new and exciting leadership opportunity. I think being able to lead others all summer helped me realize that I would like to work in environmental management or leadership.” Smith and the apprentices also secured seed donations and sowed these seeds in the NIU Greenhouse for the September 24 Growing Brunch Bowls fundraiser.

For her final summer project Smith hosted volunteers during Week of Welcome. Tyson, Illinois Campus Compact, and the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy helped create a one of a kind experience for Smith that allowed her to experiment with a new career path.   Find out more about the Tyson Foods Summer Community Internship Program. Be sure to follow the NIU Communiversity Gardens on Facebook and Instagram for fundraiser and volunteer opportunities!