Angelica Bajos was a Beal Scholar who graduated from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2023. She currently works as a garden assistant and a well-being program coordinator at the Beal Botanical Garden, which is celebrating 150 years on campus.
When I stepped onto Michigan State University's campus as a first-generation student nearly four years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that I was eager to help stabilize the planet and that I was lost. It only took 48 hours after being dropped off on campus to find myself in the garden that would three years later be my home away from home.
Working for the Beal Botanical Garden started off as an internship in the summer of 2022. Over the summer I tried coming up with projects that could promote sustainability throughout the garden, but most of my ideas just weren’t aspiring as I hoped. Although my initial projects did not flourish, while being a garden assistant, I began to learn how to sow seeds and manage the garden. Just as I was getting settled into my gardening routine, I was asked if I would be interested in helping develop Beal’s wellbeing program and becoming a Beal Scholar. Without having any experience in program planning whatsoever, I said yes.
I didn’t realize what I had done until I was bombarded with emails. It was part of my responsibility to put all the pieces of the program together. There were times when I was overwhelmed with school and trying to complete tasks for the program, however, Beal never hesitated to be supportive of my internal wellbeing.
Working for Beal Botanical Garden has been one of the greatest decisions that I made throughout my college career. Not only did I learn how to grow plants, but I felt myself grow as an individual and found a family. Before Beal, I would have never imagined that I would be developing a program like Nurture Your Roots or speaking at a national conference, or simply working in the garden. However, as I expanded my interests, I began to reveal my passion for ecotherapy — described in a quote from Valerie Smith: “The practice of being in nature to improve physiological and psychological health.”
My experience at the Beal Botanical Garden is nothing short of remarkable. Being able to learn and evolve in such an enriching environment and leave my mark not only on Beal, but on the MSU community is something that I shall never forget. Beal has set the bar high for my future endeavors and I will always and forever be a dirt dweller at heart. Go Beal!