By Sharon Gibbons
At The Watershed Project, we’ve had the great pleasure of hosting high school students as part of our Greening Urban Watersheds team for the school year. The students participate in the Albany High School EDSET program, (Environmental Design, Society, English, and Technology) and they volunteer with us on Fridays during the school year, instead of attending classes. They have had a busy time helping us plant trees in North Richmond, planting and tending new bioswales on the Richmond Greenway, and helping to host our fall/spring Shoreline Cleanup days at the Albany Bulb.
Our students have come with various interests: Calder has been involved in Track and Field as he graduates and heads out to college, Chris is busy with music and theater, and Gwen pursues student governance and photography. They share an interest and love of nature and the outdoors and have worked hard with our team as we have planted, mulched, and tended our projects and hosted community volunteers to help clean up and take care of our green spaces. Our students have experienced being part of the slow, patient work of transforming gritty urban spaces into beautiful, natural gardens, while enlisting the community to be involved both in the creation and the ongoing care of our parks, creeks and shoreline. We hope that our students will feel empowered to work for change and environmental justice in their future. Gwen shared her thoughts about our work together:
My experience with working with The Watershed Project was really fun and educational. My favorite project was when we would plant trees in the yards of houses in Richmond. I loved how the residents were so excited and happy to take care of them. It really opened my eyes to how many people have interest in helping the planet. The Earth Day beach clean up did the same for me. So many people showed up and were so genuinely happy to help out. I am so glad that I got to be a part of that because it is reassuring to know that there is hope for our planet.
As summer approaches, we are saying goodbye to our three EDSET students and preparing to welcome West County high school students in a summer intensive work program. We will also have students from our local high schools participate in a service learning day on the Greenway as part of a Community Leadership Institute summer camp, hosted by Leadership High School. In addition, students will shadow our staff and get first- hand experience. We’re looking forward to getting to know and mentoring our new students, excited to include them in new projects that will require intensive teamwork and community outreach. As part of our mission to inspire care for our watersheds, mentoring and nurturing our students is a very meaningful investment to support the growth of our future community leaders.