The Charleston Parks Conservancy has launched an initiative to recruit and train a new generation of horticulture professionals from traditionally underrepresented communities. The Conservancy is kicking off a $2.5 million campaign to fund the first five years of the Community Horticulture Fellowship Program. Bank of America is getting the program off the ground with a donation of $150,000 over three years.
Annually, the Conservancy will recruit a class of six fellows for an immersive year of professional development and on-the-job training in parks, gardens, and public spaces in South Carolina. The Conservancy also will work to place the fellows in management-track positions at park management agencies, botanical gardens, horticulture companies, municipalities, businesses and institutions.
Shanice Chesney has been hired as the Fellowship Program Manager. She and the program’s Selection Committee will identify and recruit fellows from all South Carolina Colleges and Universities with an emphasis on recent graduates of Historically Black Colleges & Universities and Technical Colleges.
The first class of fellows will be announced in December 2022.
“As an organization dedicated to protecting and improving public spaces, we know the power of parks and the role they play in our community,” said Tom McGuire, executive director of the Conservancy. “We have always understood the vital importance of biodiversity in our gardens and parks and have intentionally worked to nurture it.
“We’ve been less successful at recognizing and nurturing the vibrant diversity in our community, organization and industry,” he added. “It’s time to change that. The Community Horticulture Fellowship Program allows us to do more.”
Over the course of the year-long fellowship, participants will engage in skills training, leadership and professional development courses in the parks and with partners of the program. Each fellow will complete a capstone project that will refine their horticultural knowledge and skills.
Throughout the year, the Conservancy will continue to raise money to fund the program for the next five years. A Horticulture Fellows Impact Fund has been created in response to an anonymous challenge grant for $100,000. The campaign to raise $100,000 will run from June 22 to August 31.
For more information on how to contribute to this program, contact Stephanie Lee, associate director of development, at [email protected] or Kathy Kauffmann, chief development officer, at [email protected]
As part of its overall commitment to responsible growth, Bank of America’s environmental sustainability efforts include financing for low-carbon and sustainable business activities, support of employees as environmental stewards, and partnerships with local organizations like the Charleston Parks Conservancy. The bank’s support is a significant step toward the Conservancy’s fundraising goal and will increase opportunity in underrepresented communities of color in the region. The program funding will kickstart the Community Horticulture Fellowship program, which is in line with the bank’s broader commitment to racial equality and environmental justice.
“Bank of America remains committed to helping drive progress here in the Lowcountry, where protecting our natural coastal resources underpins the viability of our local economy, from tourism to trade,” said Mark Munn, president, Bank of America Charleston/Hilton Head. “By partnering with the Charleston Parks Conservancy in support of the Community Horticulture Fellowship, we aim to provide increased representation and access to opportunities for individuals from historically underrepresented backgrounds.”
Upon completion of the program, each Community Horticulture Fellow will receive a certificate of achievement and job placement with the help of the Conservancy’s network of supporters and the American Public Gardens Association.
“This program will not only benefit the Charleston community, but the state and region as a whole through more opportunities, added revenue and an overall stronger community.” McGuire said. To learn more about the Fellowship Program, contact Shanice Chesney, Fellowship Program Manager at [email protected] or [email protected]
About the Charleston Parks Conservancy
The Charleston Parks Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring the people of Charleston to connect with their parks and create stunning public places and a strong community. For more than 15 years, the Conservancy — through public-private partnerships — has had a hand in renovating and beautifying more than 20 parks in the City of Charleston. In 2020, renovations were completed at Moultrie Playground and at St. Julian Devine Community Center & Park. Other notable projects include the complete renovation of Colonial Lake, the renovation of the Rose Pavilion at Hampton Park as well as Magnolia Park and Community Garden and Medway Park and Community Garden. For more information, visit www.charlestonparksconservancy.org.