By Ruth Seward, Director, Outreach & Community Engagement
One way that Tower Hill Botanic Garden partners with local college students is through the Outreach and Community Relations Department. We partner with students on a variety of projects in and around Worcester. Work provided by these students, enhances our ability to study and improve our urban environment. We are grateful for over 10 years of continuous volunteer help from these colleges and universities.
Currently, students from Clark University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute are taking a deep look into the trees in individual neighborhoods. Seventy seven percent of Worcester’s residents live in environmental justice neighborhoods, which lack trees and greenspace, as defined by the Department of Conservation & Recreation. Having trees where you live improve your health and overall quality of life. Our student partners are mapping existing street trees, analyzing street tree canopy cover in each neighborhood and offering suggestions to improve tree canopy in these areas.
Partnerships with College of the Holy Cross have varied over the years. They include the recent Ignite Fund project which helped Worcester Tree Initiative develop and fund an urban tree nursery in Worcester. Our department has also benefited from students helping us create marketing strategies and photo posters connecting people in the community who have received trees from us. Additionally, students and staff from the college have provided numerous volunteer groups to help us care for Dodge Park in Worcester.
Worcester State University and Assumption College have also hosted our large Community Tree Give Aways. They both have provided high quality interns for our program. We have planted trees in Worcester State University’s community garden and partnered with the garden volunteers to provide training for elementary students at Chandler Magnet elementary School. Anna Maria College in Paxton has provided volunteers for urban site care in Worcester. Becker College has invited staff from Tower Hill Botanic Garden for input on their new community garden in Worcester.
Our college partnerships reach into towns beyond Worcester. UMASS Amherst has provided us with summer interns over the years as well as professional training for our staff and for our adult programs. Mount Wachusett Community College invited us to hold a tree planting education program for their environmental club and teach students how to properly plant and care for trees.
We enjoy presenting our educational programs to the students from these higher education institutions. Working with local colleges and universities helps connect these students to plants, in the urban environment. It helps us stay current with the latest research and technology in the green industry. It is another way that Tower Hill Botanic Garden connects people with plants.