What change do you want to bring to the world? What can you do to share your love of plants with your community? Our newest Plant Champion, Tanner Burgdorf, asks himself these questions every time he works to inspire and build a sense of community with the students he teaches.
Tanner’s goal is to build community, using plants and education to bring people together. Placemaking and horticulture are important to him because “… plants are so important to people feeling inspired by a place. It’s what can turn places around and make them alive with color, texture, and sound. Horticulture also provides a means for landscape designs that, when on public land, provide respite and serenity to a community.” His work managing and operating the youth development program at Groundwork Bridgeport brings these goals to life.
Tanner tells us Groundwork Bridgeport “Is a community-based nonprofit that is based and has operated in Bridgeport, CT for nearly two decades. The goal of the organization is to improve Bridgeport's physical environment through grassroots efforts and initiatives that aim to beautify and revitalize the city.” Tanner teaches high school students about horticulture, landscape design, and placemaking both indoors and outdoors. By bringing students outside, he gives hands-on experiences to youth as they learn community engagement techniques from curriculum that Tanner himself has designed. The students that he inspires are what keep Tanner excited about his job.
“My favorite aspect of my job is working with youth. They constantly inspire me, and I take great pride in our organization’s ability to form strong connections with youth as we collectively work toward a Bridgeport that is stewarded and beautified by its young people.”
Giving those young plant enthusiasts a say in how they’ll shape their community is a core goal for Groundwork Bridgeport. Tanner says that the organization’s impact and success “…is through the youth we work with each and every year. Our youth program provides a place that youth want to be at and actively participate in. It also provides opportunities for youth to give back to a community they care deeply about. The physical transformation of spaces is impactful to them and shows just how capable they are as individuals and as a group.”
When you’re as excited about plants as Tanner, you need to find a way to spread that joy. His advice is that you bring your passion to your work above all else.
“Take a broader approach to applying training and education in the profession of horticulture. When it comes to work, I am a people-person, so that meant finding a job that involved people while also applying my education in landscape architecture. My initial thought was that this was a big ask, but I found it here at Groundwork Bridgeport and since have heard of more organizations that are doing it as well. I wanted my passion to have greater reach and not be limited to individual homeowners and clients. So, my advice would be to stick true to what sort of impact you want to make and make your passion count for something.”
We agree with Tanner! Without Plant Champions, we won’t be able to inspire the next generation to find their own plant-passion and perhaps even their own green-collar career.