On November 20, 2018, The Bronx GEAR UP Network partnered with The New York Botanical Garden to give families a one-of-a-kind opportunity to attend the Botanical Garden's annual Holiday Train Show.
The show was filled with model trains based on real-life locomotives from both the past and present, as well as accurate models of recognizable New York City locations, such as the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and the Statue of Liberty. All of these structures were made from the Garden's own natural materials, including bark, lotus pods, acorns and ivy. The exhibit was also accentuated by many of the Botanical Garden's beautiful plant specimens.
Students and their families expressed how impressed they were with the exhibit. Cherisse Hanis-Roach, a GEAR UP parent, said, "I don't even have the words to describe how great the Holiday Train Show is. It's phenomenal, brilliant, and breathtaking. The architecture is fascinating and the exhibit itself feels magical. What makes it the most special, though, is being here and spending time together with our families."
Stephanie Soto, a GEAR UP student, particularly enjoyed the parts she recognized. "I love that they have iconic places that I actually know in the show, like the Rockefeller Center with the Christmas tree lighting, or Van Cortland, which is right in my backyard! It's also a learning experience. Half of these things were built before my mom was born, so it's great to see for myself.
In addition to viewing the show, families were also provided with an educational workshop presented by Bronx Institute partner Ponce Bank. This workshop, presented by Wanda Matos, focused on the importance of saving up as early as possible for a student's college education and the importance of creating a savings account to assist with that goal.
"The bank presentation was also very informative," Tarin Rivera, another GEAR UP parent, said. "In my day, they didn't tell us about savings and credit cards. You went to school and then you went to work. A good piece of advice we got was to look at less expensive colleges because a Bachelor's degree counts no matter where it's from."
While admiring the beauty of the show and absorbing the information of the workshop, the families went out of their way to thank the GEAR UP program. "The train show made us feel special," Rivera said. The format, the layout, everything felt like it was geared towards us. As a single mom, I wouldn't have been able to come see the show without GEAR UP's help. It's a chance to expose our children to this beautiful environment. I'm very grateful that my family and I have gotten the opportunity to go to the Holiday Train Show."