Justin Kondrat '14 is an inspiring alumnus who defeated all odds to go to his dream school, Cornell University. In this episode, host Aaron Kominos-Smith talks with Justin about his intense passion for horticulture and how Cornell helped him achieve his dream of working as a horticulturist.
Hear about Justin's journey to Cornell as a first-generation college student who grew up in a low income household and was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age. Despite these limitations, Justin was always determined to go to Cornell. He earned his associates degree in horticulture production at SUNY Morrisville and then transferred to Schenectady County Community College to get his chemistry credits out of the way. He always knew in his heart that Cornell was where he was meant to be, and he was accepted after he finished his courses at Schenectady County Community College. In 2014 he graduated from the School of Integrative Plant Science.
Justin currently is a horticulturist within the Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection, Washington, D.C. In his free time, he leads community-based installations focused on connecting people with plants and serves as an advocate for person with learning disabilities. Most recently he produced The Pansy Project, Washington, D.C. This project was an extension of U.K. Artist, Paul Harfleet's work of highlighting the issues surrounding homophobia by planting an individual pansy at an identified site of a homophobic act. This gentle artwork and planting promotes discussion, invites dialogue and offers the opportunity for municipalities to publicly support the fight against discrimination in all its forms. This project engages the LGBTQ+ communities by the uses a pansy flower. The pansy is the ideal flower given associations with its name, but pansy flowers are hearty and easy to grow with its inherent, striking beauty: “No matter how much it’s knocked down with the ice and the snow it always comes back up with a smiling face. It always shows that face proudly.”
At Cornell, Justin led ROOTED at Cornell: a living community art installation designed to actively engage students. Justin believes that horticulture is a medium of inclusion where all may find belonging. He has devoted his life to catalyzing change through horticulture. “Plants have the power to help us transcend limitations that we place upon others and ourselves. Horticulture naturally invokes inclusion and invites all to feel welcome.”
Created and produced by Amanda Massa.
Music by Kia Albertson-Rogers '13, email@example.com.
Artwork by Chris Kelly.
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