This year marks Cheekwood’s third year partnering with Tennessee State University to provide paid internships to TSU students. This initiative was conceived by Cheekwood’s Outreach Committee to increase community connections, and the mutually beneficial program allows students of TSU’s College of Agriculture to gain quality experience in the horticultural industry.
Peter Grimaldi, Vice President of Gardens and Facilities, explains that the interns are plugged in to projects based on the needs of the department as well as the interest of the student. This summer’s interns were placed into two sectors, horticulture and arboriculture, but these two focuses are not mutually exclusive.
“Public Horticulture includes the full spectrum of horticulture, and the opportunities at our operation pretty much include bits and pieces of almost any professional opportunity you can seek out in the green industry. The interns have been very impressive, the students themselves, and if they are in anyway a representation of the young professionals that TSU is sending out into the workplace and the community, and they are, then that’s something the university should be proud of,” stated Grimaldi.
Student interns are given opportunities to work as a team as well as independently. Summer 2018 intern, Daiva Wilson, explained that she worked with her fellow TSU classmate, Steve Osborne, to care for Cheekwood’s gardens by marking new beds and making sure the old beds were in good condition. Using maps and research as references, they worked together on this project throughout the summer. Daiva was also given a horticulture project to work on independently during her time at Cheekwood. She worked on identifying, photographing, and caring for Cheekwood’s daylily collection which only bloom during the summer.
Daiva explained, “All of the daylilies that were dug out of the children’s train area were placed in the nursery. I had the responsibility to take care of the flowers. I also had to wait for them to bloom so that I could make sure the label that was with them was correct. I made a PowerPoint presentation of the correct plants and incorrect plants for documentation purposes.”
Interns from TSU have joined the garden team for the past three summers to support basic operations and add bandwidth to strategic initiatives such as tree mapping and plant collections management. Additionally, this year Cheekwood will be taking on two paid interns during the fall semester thanks to generous funding by Regions Bank.
“Regions is proud to support Cheekwood’s TSU Internship Program for low- or moderate-income students. We were excited to learn of the program and the success that TSU students have had in securing employment in the area of study upon graduation,” stated Latrisha Jemison, Senior Vice President / Regional Community Development & Partnerships Manager at Regions Bank.
For more information about TSU’s College of Agriculture, click here.
TSU students Steve Osborne (left), an Agricultural Sciences major with concentration in Environmental Sciences, and Davia Wilson (right), an Agriculture major with a concentration in Biotechnology, with Cheekwood Plant Collections Manager Shanna T. Jones (center) during their summer internship at Cheekwood in 2018.