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Yonkers High School Students Develop Passion for Beautifying the Environment at Untermyer Gardens

Originally designed to be “the finest garden in the world,” Untermyer Gardens is a spectacular destination in Yonkers, New York, filled with meandering paths, unique sculptures, and breathtaking panoramic views of the Hudson River. And now local students have rolled up their sleeves to help bring the Gardens’ rich history to life.

Untermyer Gardens was purchased by Samuel J. Untermyer, a prominent New York lawyer with a passion for horticulture, in 1899. After his passing, the land was conveyed to the City of Yonkers. Today, the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy partners with the City of Yonkers to restore and maintain 43 acres of the original gardens.

In 2019, Untermyer Gardens formed a partnership with Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE) to offer summer internships for students across all Yonkers high schools to assist in beautifying the gardens. These internships have made a life-changing impact on students, deepening their love for nature and desire to give back to their community.

My experience at Untermyer really inspired me to solidify my plans for college, determine my major, and choose an area of study that I will be dedicating my life to,” stated Natalie, YPIE alum who interned at Untermyer Gardens during the Summer 2020 and currently attends Bennington College.

Timothy Tilghman, Head Gardener and mentor to the YPIE students, has been working to restore the gardens since 2011. “The genesis of the YPIE student internship program was to create a vegetable garden that was fully conceived, created, and maintained by the high school interns,” said Timothy. “We hope to instill in these students a love of nature, an appreciation of the beauty of the environment, and the importance of giving back to the community,”

More than 20 YPIE students have interned at Untermyer Gardens. “We learned about how much effort goes into the upkeep of a beautiful place like Untermyer and about the scientific aspects of nature itself,” said Sydney, YPIE Intern. “Some of the lessons that I learned will stay with me forever.”

This summer, YPIE students opened up paths across the 45 acres, planted an orchard with apple and pear trees, sifted compost, and added 175 plants to the sloped terrace near the vegetable garden. They also created the infrastructure for a hoop house, where they will grow and maintain a continuous rotation of crops for the vegetable garden.

As a culminating project on Saturday, October 16th, a group of YPIE Summer Interns planted a selection of native shrubs in a garden near the entrance that will welcome all guests to Untermyer Gardens.

It opens their eyes to the fascination of nature,” adds Timothy. “The students coming from YPIE already understand dedication, focus, camaraderie, and teamwork. This internship gives them a small lesson that they can take into their careers: choosing something to do that is a benefit to themselves and others.

This partnership has had an impact on beautifying the Gardens as well as providing experiences that will stay with YPIE students always.

Before this experience, I never planted a tree or even took care of a plant,” said Malek, YPIE Intern. “This summer, I learned so much about gardening and the history of the park, and also how important it is for all of us to work together to help our community.

Not only is Untermyer a hidden gem in Yonkers, but the staff’s knowledge and effort definitely adds to the atmosphere,” adds Sydney. “I look forward to going back to Untermyer when I have children of my own and sharing the many stories of my 2021 internship. It is a time and place that I will always appreciate and remember vividly.”

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