Afterschool care coordinator inspires others to grow
Cydni Czerkawski, originally from Evansville, Indiana, and now a local to Auburn, takes on her passion for gardening and shares it with others through her “In the Garden with Cyndi” events at the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center.
Czerkawski graduated from Indiana State University with a Bachelors in psychology. She began her college career as a biology major where one of her professors introduced her to gardening. For two summers, Czerkawski worked with flowers on a downtown walkway as she took care of all the plants and conversed with locals. This job is what inspired her to make the switch to psychology she said.
With her interest in horticulture therapy leading the way, Czerkawski took a job at a psychiatric hospital for children where she worked as a rehab therapist. At this hospital, she designed their first-ever butterfly therapeutic garden.
Czerkawski currently has a community gardening spot with her three sons and husband who all share her love for the Auburn area and gardening.
“The side product of gardening for me is that it’s healthy and tastes delicious, but I was never really worried too much about that aspect … I just thought the whole experience was fun,” she said.
Today, Czerkawski holds a position at Cary Woods Elementary School as the afterschool care coordinator. She has worked this job for 15 years now.
“I do a lot of planting with the kids at school; they love it,” Czerkawski said.
She and the kids use containers for planting various kinds of flowers and constructing fairy gardens. In this job, Czerkawski teaches the kids to be respectful of nature as well as grow their knowledge.
“A lot of the kids are afraid of bees, so I try to teach them and educate them on that so that they aren’t afraid,” she said.
Czerkawski has been working with kids for over 35 years and she said doesn’t see herself stopping anytime soon. She and the kids do many beautification projects together such as putting together bouquets for the kids to take home.
“My favorite memory is the Auburn Public Library Garden,” she said
Czerkawski designed the garden at the Auburn Public Library, which she said was one of her favorite memories. She was the caretaker for 6 years until the City took over.
At "In the Garden with Cyndi," participants will be immersed in a hands-on gardening experience. It starts with an introduction from Czerkawski about the gardening basics such as raised bed, vertical and container gardening. Next, there will be different stations set up so that guests can have a variety to choose from.
At one station, participants can familiarize themselves with the various soil types. At a second station, they will listen to a talk about the best places to plant gardens. Participants will also be invited to plant their own vegetables and discuss the best methods for composting.
At the end of the event, guests can enjoy snacks from Lulu’s Market and Bakery and will receive both a handout from the co-op as well as their own Xenia seeds to plant. A tour of the butterfly garden will also be given to those who wish to participate.
“I will offer a question and answer session at the end for anyone who wants to know more than what we covered,” Czerkawski said.
Bonnie Wilson, neighbor to Czerkawski, said through their sons' friendship, she has gotten to know Czerkawski and see how wonderful she is with children.
“Cyndi inspires me in so many ways; she’s always pleasant, bubbly and brilliant," Wilson said. "She is a glass half full, sun is always shining kind of person."
Shelby Bramblett, former student in Czerkawski’s afterschool care program, now works for Czerkawski. Bramblett held this job from her senior year of high school until this past September.
“Mrs. Cyndi is a big reason why I went into education,” Bramblett said.
Bramblett said she admires the way in which Czerkawski handles the kids at the program and is so personable with them.
“It sounds simple, but she really taught me how to garden,” Bramblett said.
The next "In the Garden with Cyndi" will be held on May 2 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.