Adriana Quiñonez Solano ’24 finds her home at the Painted Turtle Farm

Growing up, Adriana Quiñonez Solano ’24 wondered if she was meant to go to college. When she was awarded an Eisenhower Scholarship from Gettysburg College, she knew she had the opportunity to transform her future.

Solano is originally from El Salvador, but moved to Silver Spring, Maryland the day after she turned 11e birthday. Before arriving in the United States, she never imagined moving to the country. When she took the step, she felt alienated.

“I didn’t know the language,” Solano reflected. “I remember the day before my first day of school in America. I was terrified that I had to introduce myself because people couldn’t pronounce my name properly. I Google translated how to pronounce it.”

But by getting involved in a wide variety of high school activities, such as hockey and lacrosse, and studying film and film, Solano quickly found her way. She eventually graduated as the first student from her high school to earn an IB/bilingual diploma.

Now a junior at Gettysburg College majoring in environmental studies, public policy, and Hispanic/Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino studies. Solano’s time on campus taught her important lessons during her formative years.

“When I first came to Gettysburg, I was aware for a while that something was missing,” says Solano, who, as a first-generation college student, acknowledges that she initially struggled with imposter syndrome and how to ask for help within this new learning community.

Solano really began to feel at home when she began volunteering at the Painted Turtle Farm through the College’s Center for Public Service. The farm is a certified naturally grown campus community garden where students and local immigrant families harvest together.

“Going to the farm and being with local families felt like a home away from home. It’s such a safe place. I speak my language and communicate with the members of the community,” says Solano.

Adriana Quiñonez Solano ’24 soaking up the sun at the Painted Turtle Farm.

The Painted Turtle Farm is committed to bringing students and local immigrant families together to share food traditions, grow produce and culturally desirable foods, and initiate community organization and reflection for social change. The farm’s mission deeply affected Solano. It gave her the platform to develop close personal relationships and taught her lifelong skills such as leadership, communication, land management, and farming and gardening techniques.

Perhaps most importantly, Solano found the Painted Turtle Farm to be a catalyst for making a difference at Gettysburg College, not only among her classmates but among the many immigrant families with whom she has formed lasting bonds.

Solano’s experience with the Painted Turtle Farm also taught her a lot about herself. She rediscovered the love for the earth and came to realize that she wants to pursue similar work in the community as a career path, which makes her ideally positioned to help other people for the rest of her life.

“For a long time I was not aware of my own connection with the country and the environment. When I came back home to El Salvador, I had my own trees outside my house and we grew all sorts of things. When I moved to Maryland, my house didn’t even have a backyard. It was really nice to get back in touch with nature,” said Solano.

Adriana sits in front of a reflective surface
Adriana Quiñonez Solano ’23 visiting friends on the west coast.

Currently, Solano is one of the farm’s three program coordinators. She oversees Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), works with families who own farm plots to grow their own produce, and recently served as a key voice in promoting the College’s recently approved Land Acknowledgment Statement.

“We need to recognize that the land we are in is not ours — and do things to honor that. We must raise the voices that continue to this day struggle against oppression and challenges,” said Solano, who took part in the college’s land recognition ceremony this fall. The event honored the native land on which Gettysburg College rests and the people who have managed it over the generations.

One way she has lived this value is through her work with the Three Sisters Garden lot at the Painted Turtle Farm. This plot, inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass,” is a way of engaging with native farming practices by planting native crops, such as corn, beans, and squash. The lot began with Katie Mercer ’21 and is currently run by Gettysburg students and local farmers.

When Solano is not at the Painted Turtle Farm, he enjoys going to Waldos & Company in town and working as a Community Advisor (CA) for Apple Hall on campus. She has found that working in residential life, in addition to working the farm, has inspired her to share her own culture and identity with the wider college community, and to help first-generation students and students of color do the same.

“I really just work to create a good environment for people and to be the best resource possible,” explains Solano. “When I first arrived in Gettysburg, I was struggling because I thought no one would understand what I was going through. I was scared because I thought no one was like me. Now I feel like I’m part of the change. I want to be there to help first-generation students successfully navigate. It means a lot to me.”

Learn more about the Painted Turtle Farm and how you can get involved. Student volunteers are involved throughout the year in a range of projects such as planning, planting, growing, harvesting, and educating the students and community about the importance of local and sustainable agriculture.

By Cameron Jury ’23
Posted: 11/17/22

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