The brisk April air didn’t dim Donte Taylor’s sunny Monday morning. Donte, NYRP’s Deputy Director of Community Gardens, prepared to make his rounds – checking up on all 26 community gardens in the two boroughs. He begins each week visiting the gardens to identify which ones need some TLC. Whether its rhododendrons that aren’t doing well or hydrangea that need more water, Donte and his field crew spend their week keeping dozens of gardens in New York City’s most under-resourced neighborhoods at their best. Working in tandem with other regional directors, Donte and his team also work on special projects all over New York City—constructing garden beds, planting trees or cleaning up spaces.
Donte’s 14-year history with NYRP started with a 6-month AmeriCorps term back in 2003. Growing up in Harlem, Donte described his youth as one where he could have easily found himself heading down a dangerously narrow path. He credits his experience at NYRP as the reason why he fell in love with his job, grew stronger as a person and as a professional. “I thought I was just going to be removing graffiti. Now I’m able to support my family in a positive way—I have a career in horticulture and I’m making a real difference in New York City communities, just like the one I grew up in.”
Continuing to work side by side with many of the people who trained him, Donte continued, “NYRP feels like family to me. I’ve always felt that the people here are invested in me and my future.” One of his best memories include building the 103rd Street Community Garden playground when community members and Disney volunteers joined NYRP to build a jungle gym. “There are moments like that day that are really special to me—when my job is fun and important.”