I am still pleasantly surprised to recall, on my daily commute to work, so many fond memories of my years as a Classical High School student. During those years, I worked as an office receptionist after school and on the weekends. Junior year, we were assigned a re-usable energy project in my AP Environmental class. I quickly realized that I was not a very good environmental steward. It became apparent, neither was the office I worked for. Well, I thought, “Challenge accepted!” I took it upon myself to bring it up to the Office Manager, confident she would see the error of our ways and change some of the methods we had in place. At the time, recycling was considered a radical advancement in the office; one that I supported with the utmost conviction. After my well-rehearsed “impromptu” declaration of why paper recycling should be put in place, she smiled tenderly at my passion and responded that while she’d like to rid the world of all its toxins, recycling would never work unless everyone decided to get behind it. And that my friends is when I realized how important it is to make the big decisions for yourself first, because even the biggest movement started at one point with a small few.
A few years ago now, Serve Rhode Island’s Executive Director, Bernie Beaudreau, was walking through the park and wondered about how great it would be for groups to clean up this by-all-other-accounts beautiful park. Seven years later, groups of community members including AmeriCorps members, politicians, legislators, neighbors, families, college students, youth, and adults of all ages are still coming together on a Saturday morning to clean up their neighborhood park. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, environmental stewardship is the responsibility for environmental quality shared by all those whose actions affect the environment and as a means to a more sustainable future. As an AmeriCorps VISTA at Serve Rhode Island, I have had the pleasure of seeing how much good one group can do and the movement it can set in motion. I plan to continue these efforts even after I’ve completed my term, as so many others have, some of whom I met at this year’s cleanup and hope to continue to run into in years to come. Along with taking care of our community parks, we are building up our AmeriCorps garden, giving way to environmental stewards and community leaders alike every day. Proud Classical alum? Clearly. AmeriCorps lifer? Can’t wait to find out….!