When it comes to volunteering, 16-year-old Darian Paul chooses to follow her passions.
Since becoming a Mercer volunteer at 13, the teen has participated in volunteer projects that correspond to her interests in art, science, and gardening.
“I was always interested in science,” she said. “When I learned how cool butterflies were, I started doing more research and really educated myself about butterfly gardens.”
She came across multiple websites that offered information on butterflies and what they need to survive and ordered seed from Live Monarch to get her backyard butterfly garden started.
“For the past 2 to 3 years, I’ve been interested in monarch butterflies,” she said. “I started cultivating butterflies in my backyard. I probably raised about 40. I learned what grows best in our area and what attracts the butterflies.”
Then, two years ago, she learned about a project between Harris County Precinct 4 and the Spring Creek Education Society to plant milkweed along the Spring Creek Greenway. With her own milkweed garden thriving, Darian was excited to assist with the plantings and share information she had learned while growing her own milkweed.
More recently, Darian has become more involved at Mercer as a face painter.
“In the seventh grade, I started volunteering at my school as part of National Junior Honor Society,” she said. “My school put me in a face painting booth and, at the time, I had never face painted before.”
They gave her watercolors and a book of shapes she could paint. When the pictures didn’t turn out as well as she liked, the teen started researching ways to improve her skills. She purchased new paint that stuck to the skin better than watercolors and educated herself by watching YouTube videos on face painting techniques.
By the time the next event rolled around, the teen was churning out more complicated designs, with her own unique flare. Recently, she had the opportunity to demonstrate her talent at Mercer’s Children’s Garden Grand Opening.
“Mercer is a great place to volunteer,” she said. “I love being outside and seeing all the different plants and animals. You also meet a lot of great people who are really interested in their field and are quite knowledgeable. If you don’t know much about a subject, they are eager to teach you.”