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Published May 25, 2023
Naomi Boldon, a biomedical sciences Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wyoming, is the 2023 recipient of the UW Stewart Family Serviceship Award.
She won $5,000 to complete her service project focusing on the Downtown Clinic community garden in Laramie.
Boldon’s Stewart Family Service Award project is an outgrowth of her past work with Laramie’s Downtown Clinic as an AmeriCorps volunteer and her research on nutrition. Her project aims to find ways to encourage community members to improve their nutrition intake and empower them to make healthier lifestyle choices through nutrition education and food cultivation practices.
The gardens provide a gathering space, educational space and healing space to contribute to the Laramie community by increasing awareness of healthy living; drawing the attention of those passing through; and adding to the community atmosphere of the city.
The Downtown Clinic provides primary and specialty health care and pharmacy services to low-income, uninsured people in Albany County. During her past service as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, the western half of the Downtown Clinic parking lot was transformed into a fruit, vegetable, herb and flower garden, with benches for gatherings and individual reflection.
To address the nutritional and physical needs of the community, a total of five large vegetable and fruit beds, a rose garden and a 5-foot herb spiral (with a cherry tree) were built and fortified with nutrient-dense soil. Harvested food from the gardens is distributed to Downtown Clinic clients, volunteers and community members. Flowers are brought in to brighten the clinic and for clients to take home.
Now, almost five years later, funding from the Stewart Family Serviceship Award will allow Boldon to spruce up and expand the community garden.
“Now in my third year of the biomedical sciences Ph.D. program at the University of Wyoming, the community garden needs to be maintained to increase community engagement and to develop hands-on educational offerings,” Boldon says. “I am excited to take the Downtown Clinic garden project to the next stage of development and grateful for generous support provided by the Stewart Family Serviceship Award.”
This opportunity “provides the chance for me to pursue my passion of increasing the health of our most vulnerable and underrepresented populations while also contributing to the advancement of cutting-edge bioinformatics and computational biology at UW,” Boldon adds. “My goal is to work at the interface between nutritional genomics and public health, and to bring this knowledge to the level of community usefulness.”
She hopes to accomplish three goals this summer:
-- Upgrade the Downtown Clinic community garden, including soil enrichment for the beds; new shade cloths; minor repairs; perennials divided and replenished; and planting of a living privacy wall at the open end of the garden facing the alley for more privacy and enhancement of its healing atmosphere.
-- Educate members of the community about home gardening to enhance physical and mental health through gardening workshops and provide starter plants to begin gardening at home.
-- Provide education on how to eat more healthily, such as incorporating herbs and spices for flavor instead of salt and sugar. Recipes, preparation methods and many of the fresh foods needed to make them will be provided.
Boldon is a nontraditional, first-generation college student, passionate about advancing equity in science and health care. After graduating with a B.S. in nutritional science and a certificate in global health from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she spent two terms as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at the Downtown Clinic, working to alleviate poverty and expand the clinic’s capacity to improve the lives of its clients.
Jill Keith, an associate professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences who also is a registered dietitian/nutritionist, works with Boldon as her major adviser and as an instructor in some of her coursework.
“Naomi is pursuing her doctoral degree in biomedical sciences with a specialization in human nutrition in order to combine her knowledge, expertise and passion for the role of nutrition in health,” Keith says. “Naomi’s background, formal education journey and academic successes -- while navigating many personal barriers to education as a first-generation college student -- speak to her unparalleled commitment and resourcefulness for reaching her goals and serving others.
“Her service to public health and equity is highlighted through her work with the Downtown Clinic community garden project,” Keith continues. “Her passion for nutrition, food security and equity, and promotion of health to contribute to making a large-scale difference in people’s lives through improving nutrition makes her an ideal candidate for the Stewart Family Serviceship Award.”
Professor Jean Garrison, chair of the Stewart Award Committee, says Boldon’s project is precisely the kind of project the Stewart Award was created to support -- “namely, a project that addresses an important community need and real-world challenge.”