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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Town and Village of Chester and The Heritage Trail, New York, USA


Town and Village of Chester and The Heritage Trail, New York, USA
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Registered: August 2020
City/Town/Province: Chester
Posts: 1
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Keeping It Green, one Clean up at a Time

"Do something about it." We're told this phrase so frequently in our lifetime, but how many times must it be said before we truly resonate with its meaning? For me - in terms of the environmental activism which was to follow - it was on a warm spring day in 2019, in my former 6th grade teachers classroom. It has not become an unfound occurrence for me (now a rising senior) to seek Mr. Troups counsel in a prolific manner, with that day in particular being no exception. The discussion at hand was subject to the environmental status of The Heritage Trail, which is owned and maintained by The County of Orange in New York State. The trail, which will soon stretch from the City of Middletown to the Village of Harriman, currently clocks in at over 14 miles long, and is utilized by swaths of Orange County residents every week. The disheartening thing is, despite all of it's beauty and wonder, people still insist on trashing it. As someone who has personally used the trail many times to walk to school - and recognizes it's importance for our community -I found the vast sea of litter and rubbish to be intolerable, and as such, I brought it up to Mr. Troup, who, after I finished with my fulmination, told me the following: "Do something about it." It was with this encouragement, as well as the support of family, friends, and peers, that I would soon found a local youth environmental organization called "TheGreenTeenMovement''. And while it's original purpose for creation was to clean up the Heritage Trail, it grew to become something that would symbolize much more.

Our first "clean up operation" only consisted of 7 members. As any environmentalist can tell you, removing garbage from the great outdoors isn't the easiest of work. The weather can be unpleasant, the work labor intensive; and oftentimes unpaid. The other 6 students (all friends of mine) knew this, but wouldn't allow those deterrents to prevent them from coming out to serve both their community and environment. After 4 hours and 14 bags of garbage collected, our jolly little group of advocates were finished for the day and ready for departure. Afterwards, we all hung out at the local pizza parlor, sharing hysterical laughs, smiles, and pride for what we had just done, just 7 teenagers living in the moment. From that point onward, momentum would build at a pace fast enough to generate both personal exuberance and immense anxiety. In a length of time just over 2 months, the now established GreenTeenMovement had accomplished the following, with plenty more to come:

-quadruplication in membership status

- 5 environmental cleanups (all clean ups took place in Chester and on the Heritage trail), including one in partnership with New York State Senator James Skoufis at The Heritage Trail, which saw a combined turnout of 33 people who were both members of The GreenTeenMovement and residential volunteers

-amassed over 80 filled bags of garbage, including an assortment of larger items, such as pvc pipes and a fully sized metal door

-Establishment of a reliable source of volunteer hours for students (such as those in the National Honor Society), in an area where volunteer opportunities were scarce

-Providing members chances to attend unique events in relation to our cause, such as the Girl Boss Expo in Goshen, New York

-Coverage by a local newspaper

As the leaves turned from the color of green to those of apricot, burgundy, and hazel, with glistening snow soon to take their place upon the treetops, new opportunities for the group would arise; as would new challenges. On December 2nd, we held our last clean up of 2019. And while we would continue to attend Orange County conservation meetings and even get to have our very own float (which was lots of fun to decorate with other members) in The annual Chester Christmas parade, most forms of activity would begin to decrease to a more modest pace. This was something I considered to be advantageous to our unofficial environmental groups situation, as it meant we could recuperate and shift our focus elsewhere until the weather began to warm. At this point in time, I had three main priorities: Recruit new members from other towns so we could expand our environmental activity; Become an officially recognized 501(c) organization; Hold a community fundraiser so we could obtain garbage cans and have them painted by Chester and Goshen art students, afterwards placing them along the Heritage trail, where there's very few of them, in an effort to alleviate the littering problem. Of those three priorities, two made significant progress before Coronavirus brought the entire world to a sudden halt. The first priority which had seen substantial progress, was increased membership. Simply put, by the time Coronavirus had struck, we had 29 members who had attended one clean up at the very least each, with an additional 15-20 more from other school districts ready to join up in the spring (upwards to 49 members in total). The other priority - Holding a fundraiser to obtain garbage cans and have them painted by Chester and Goshen art students, proved triumphant. After hours and hours of other members and I utilizing grassroots methods such as door knocking in order to sell "tickets" to the fundraiser dinner, we were able to raise over $2,000 dollars. Patrons were treated to pizza, beverages, salad, and dessert at The Chester Walton engine & hose company fire house, whom we partnered with for the event. This was yet another great opportunity for students to gain experience, volunteer hours, and leadership skills, and once again, we received coverage by the local newspaper; "Teens raise green to get green" (Francis Ruth Harris, January 7th, 2020).

The Nicodemus Wilderness Project speaks volumes to me. If it is truly the intention of the populous to build a sustainable and prosperous future for the next generations to maintain, one of our core tenets must be the preservation of our environments ability to not only succeed, but to flourish, as it had once done so before the ravishment carried out by us in the postindustrial age. To this end, it will be the Individuals, foundations, and organizations, - such as the Nicodemus Wilderness Project - which foster awareness, advocacy, education, and resolve; through virtue of voice, body, and mind, who sow the seeds of today that will provide the harvest of tomorrow. Let us replant our forest, clear our waters, and restore our ecosystems to a level of balance. This is our home, there is no "Planet B".

At the age of 17 years old, I've had the privilege to have accomplished the following: Multiple internships with New York State Senator James Skoufis, acceptation into the American Legion's Boys State Competition, held two paying jobs at the same time (while working as a journalist for the local paper), founded a youth environmental organization, interned for a defense attorney, have received high honor roll credentials, and more. I've had personal hardships presented to me in my life, and wouldn't have it any other way. I don't draw hate for those who've "wronged me" anymore, or act dwell on past events that could've gone better for me. What I do draw from those experiences is love. Love, empathy, and the motivation necessary to help those who've had it a helluva lot worse than I. As I've made it painstakingly clear, I like to reinforce my statements with effective action, something I think shines through in plan to work for both the United Nations and PeaceCorps immediately after college.

In the words of the late John Fitzgerald Kennedy, " All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days . . .nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin."
Date: August 15, 2020 Views: 5074 File size: 24.4kb, 134.4kb : 960 x 720
Hours Volunteered: 286
Volunteers: 43
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 14 to 17
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): Over 85 bags of garbage, along with larger assortments of rubbish were collected but never weighed.
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