Bella Vasquez, a freshman at Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts — Manhattan, lives in an apartment full of plants, thanks to the love of gardening she shares with her mother. She was taught at an early age how to care for plants and how to put certain ones, like the aloe they are growing now, to good use.
Vasquez (whose favorite color is green) figured that creating a club would help her adjust to high school life. Most importantly, she wanted to create a place where people who shared her passion for vegetation could enjoy it together. The idea to create a gardening club began in the fall when Vasquez and her friends decided they wanted to create something lasting during their first year of high school.
The group fleshed out the details of the club, such as what materials they’d need from the school, what meetings would look like, and when they’d send the proposal to Lynn Jeudy, the Dean of Arts & Athletics. Vasquez tapped Lolly Burrows as the group’s advisor (Ms. Burrows keeps some of the plants and materials in her classroom!), Ms. Jeudy helped the group develop a club “constitution,” and posters were made to put up on the digital displays in the school. In November, the club was born.
“So many people came in,” Vasquez, the club’s president, said about the first meeting. “I was overwhelmed, but very excited. I just remember talking to different types of people, dancing, and chilling to the music in the background. Everyone just welcomed each other; it was such a nice space.”
It reminds Vasquez of the coziness of her own home, where she takes care of her chamomile, lavender, and mint plants in her downtime. Having researched experiments on the subject, she believes that plants can react positively or negatively to the energy around them. Vasquez personally enjoys talking to her plants, something that acts as “therapy” for her.
As for the club, listening to music is how every meeting begins; Vasquez likes “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn and John, but usually lets Jasmine Chan, the vice president of the club, take the “aux.” As the members of the club settle in — between 10-20 for each meeting, depending on availability — they discuss the activity for the day.
It wasn’t difficult to find new members, Vasquez said, in part due to the music drawing scholars in but also thanks to her classmates’ natural interest in gardening and the club’s bright posters.
“I think it’s all about attraction and how you present what you’re doing in the club. You have to ask yourself what in your club will speak to your audience — in my case, it was good vibes in general, music, and great activities.”
Recently, the group created chia “seed bombs,” little balls made up of compostable materials and seeds. After creation, the seed bombs are easily planted and maintained in shallow soil — a great way to bring color to otherwise dull urban environments. Other Gardening Club plants include cherry tomatoes and pink oyster mushrooms, which taste like bacon once cooked.
Vasquez hopes to take an environmental engineering class next year, and although college is a few years away, she thinks that may be a path she pursues. Equipped with a love of plants and a desire to share it, she’s realized that passion has opened the door to so much more.
“I’m exposed to a lot more now, and [the club] has helped me adjust,” Vasquez said. “It made me meet new people, and with those connections, I got to know the school a bit more. Gardening club has made me open to many new things, and it has just made me feel more welcome as a freshman.”