It had been two years since 2013 when Barbara was a PLACE mentor when we asked her to reflect on her experience in the program. “While I was their mentor, I would like to think that I learned as much from them as they learned from me. My team of funny, caring, and hardworking youth helped me learn how to be a better leader and team player.”
Barbara was born in Puerto Rico but has lived in the Bronx since 2002. It didn’t take her long to fall in love with the borough but she says her experience fostered a deeper sense of appreciation for her community. “I do not think I have loved the Bronx as much as I began to love it after my summer working with The Bronx is Blooming.”
She had just finished her sophomore year at Bates College and recently decided she wanted to pursue a major in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in Global Environment and Social Change, when she joined The Bronx is Blooming for hands on experience. “I believe the work Bronx is Blooming does is closely tied to my own interests and the reasons why I chose to be an Environmental Studies major with this specific concentration. The organization and the projects helped me identify some of the local inequalities and struggles and how those intersected with environmental issues and vice versa.”
Barbara spent most of her days in Franz Sigel Park with just her team but found the days spent with volunteers especially fulfilling. “I believe that one of my biggest accomplishments was to see my team encourage volunteers and others to feel excited for the work that they were doing.” Seeing her students take a leadership role, often directing people twice their age, was rewarding to see.
Barbara graduated from Bates College in 2015 with her major in Environmental Studies. She currently works at her alma mater as an Assistant Program Coordinator in the Office of Intercultural Education. Next year, through an English Teaching Assistantship Fulbright grant, Barbara will be traveling to Guatemala where she hopes to create environmental-related community projects. Barbara already has big aspirations for her eventual return to the Bronx. “I want to learn how to be a youth program supervisor and provide groups of students in the Bronx with high-quality projects and service-learning experiences. Like The Bronx is Blooming, I hope that our youth groups in the Bronx learn to love and appreciate their communities by making them beautiful and taking care of them.”