My name is Jeremy Winkler. I interned for Maurice from 2004 to 2005. It was probably one of the most meaningful times in my life. I had just come back to Cleveland that summer from an intensive 4 month field studies course in the badlands of Utah and on the Navajo nation and my mind was heavily absorbed in community and the environment. To my really good fortune I was chosen to participate in the environmental americorps team as part of a summer program at Case Western Reserve University paired up with the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. This opportunity allowed me to step into the special and magical realm of Maurice Smalls.
I spent my internship working under the guidance of Mr. Small and its hard to explain how quickly I found his embrace, his smile and his intellect absorb me completely. As an intern I spent time helping Mr. Small set up and maintain community gardens across the city of Cleveland as well as mentor and plan lessons for the youth in the area who he had hired on as employees to grow, harvest and sell the crops as part of a learning model setup as a small business. This really brought together the community from all demographics however it didn't come with its own unique set of challenges as some gardens were located in tough areas where vandalism and security were at stake as well as some of the employees who lacked mentorship, were young, naive and at times disordinate. However Maurice ran these operations with complete style and grace and I saw everyone who was part of the program completely buy into his mission and purpose and consider him like a friend, father, or older brother. It was really beautiful. Mr. Small would talk about how beautiful his life was and he would compare it to riding a wave. And while he would be chewing on his licorice root, with crystals braided into his hair, he would say, "Oh man, I've been riding this wave for 15 years man, life is really beautiful." And he had all the kids each pick out a little space in the garden that they would call their own. Some would find a little hidden corner tucked under a grove of trees, others would create their special place between the chicken coop and their building with flowers and painted tires and striped bean stalks growing along the edge of an abandoned factory. The colors and beauty and positivity from everyone working together was unreal, it truly was a magic garden. My work with Maurice extended to working as part of a guerrilla task force aimed at setting up gardens all across the city, and again this was one of the richest periods of my life. Achievement was measured in smiles from strangers, it was truly being alive.
Upon graduation I decided to pursue a Ph.D in chemistry at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. During my graduate studies my community involvement shifted more towards working with the homeless as well as organizing and hosting benefits in film and music to support local charities. Upon completion of my Ph.D. I moved to Boston, where I currently reside, to continue my education as a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. My current work focuses on research on the resolution of inflammation in human health and disease. This work extends to nutrition, immunology, biochemistry and pathology.