It is a pleasure to introduce Abigail Webster, a graduating senior at the Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School (BART) and a resident of Adams, MA. Abigail has been selected to receive the inaugural Lenox Garden Club scholarship, which has been established to help a Berkshire County high-school student pursue post-secondary education at an accredited institution in a field of study broadly related to horticulture, environmental conservation, and civic beautification.
The club’s $500 award can be used for books, supplies, fees, and other qualified educational expenses. This fall Abigail will enroll at the University of Maine, Orono. I’d like to share a few excerpts from her winning essay, which expresses her values and ambitions for a fruitful career: “The admiration I have for plants is fueled by both the comfort they provide and my passion for research.”
She explained to the committee how her curiosity led her to study “the effects of ice melts on plant health over the course of two years. I spent countless hours reading relevant literature, collecting data, and seeking feedback from peers, teachers, and STEM professionals through the annual Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair.” But as the Covid pandemic interrupted her work in the lab, Abigail—ever resilient—turned her attention to observing growth rates of crocuses and daisies (in her own backyard), and local population densities of trillium (at Greylock Glen). As she explained, she coped by “growing chamomile, lavender, lemon thyme, and wild strawberries. Collecting houseplants became a hobby shortly afterwards, and now every spare inch of my shelves are filled with various plants and propagations.” And when quarantine restrictions shifted recently, Abigail began to mentor other girls, encouraging them to participate in local science clubs.
She concluded her essay with this flourish: “My goal is to study plant sciences, obtain a doctorate in the field, and eventually work as a research scientist to study the effects of climate change on plant life. Investigating the relationships between plants and other elements of an ecosystem—such as insects or weather—captivates me, and it is my dream to make it into my career. This is incredibly important to me because plants are essential to both humans and an enormous amount of other life forms on our planet, and I’m determined to work with other like-minded individuals to form a better relationship with the environment.” We wish Abigail great success.
I’d also like to acknowledge the scholarship selection subcommittee members Lynn Edelstein, Stephanie Bradford, and Vaunie Graulty who worked with me to set criteria for judging scholarship applicants and fine-tune the committee’s procedures going forward. The club should be proud to be part of this new initiative to foster the next generation of scientist-scholars.