Sydney Byers is an undergraduate student at the University of Florida currently studying psychology on the pre-med educational track. On course to graduate in December, Sydney has been an active volunteer in the Wilmot Botanical Gardens for the past two years during her undergraduate studies. After graduation she plans to continue to volunteer in the gardens while applying to medical schools.
Q: How did you first hear about the Wilmot Botanical Gardens (WBG)?
A: I volunteered here with my First Year Florida class as a freshman. Later that year I thought, “That was fun and I should go do that again,” and decided to get involved. I started volunteering regularly in 2017.
Q: How would you describe your experience as a volunteer at WBG?
A: The longer I have been here, the bigger the projects become. Steve [the gardener] gives me bigger projects and lets me work on my own. I am definitely more comfortable now, I didn’t want to do anything wrong in the beginning. Over time, I realized that anything that might get messed up could be fixed and it will all be fine.
Q: What is your favorite part about volunteering at WBG?
A: Being outside is really relaxing to me and I don’t get to go outside very much because I am constantly doing school work — the life of a pre-med student! It reminds me of being home with my dad and doing yard work. I also really like the people involved and enjoy talking to them.
Q: What do you think the impact of WBG is on the UF and Gainesville community?
A: Walking through the gardens is very beautiful and I think it is one of the prettiest places in Gainesville. That might be because I volunteer here, but I still think that. There are lots of places to sit and just enjoy being outside.
Q: Have you always been interested in gardening, plants and nature?
A: My grandma lived out in the middle of the woods and she was the one who really got me interested in nature. Every morning she would sit with a cup of coffee looking out the window watching nature. Now that she is gone, I would love to keep her love of nature alive in our family.
Q: Do you actively volunteer anywhere else?
A: Yes, I also volunteer at the VA Medical Center in the psychiatric ward with other students. It is a library program and we check out books to the patients. We also talk about books with them, like a book club.
Q: How has your involvement at WBG shaped your educational path?
A: Volunteering here has been a fun part of my experience at UF. Being here has made me realize that there are all sorts of things that help people in healing.