Students plant trees in Bronx community

Eddie Jin and Ryan Reiss

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About 20 students will help remove debris from the littered shores of the Bronx River and plant new trees to revitalize the dying ecosystem on April 20th.

The initiative, Seize the Seas, was started by Madison Li (11) and Kiara Royer (11) earlier this year, with the guidance of Upper Division science teachers Dr. Jane Wesely and Camilla Nivison.

The two students were astounded by recent reports regarding the irreparable harms done to the global ecosystem by human waste like plastic straws, Royer said.

Li noticed a lack of student initiatives addressing the environment of the broader Bronx community and asked Royer to join her in beginning Seize the Seas, she said.

The initiative combines Li’s and Royer’s interests. Li is interested in marine biology and environmental protection, while Royer loves helping the community, they said.

A goal of service-learning is for students to connect their academic studies with addressing issues in the wider community, Head of the Center for Community Values and Action (CCVA) Dr. Jeremy Leeds said. “It’s great to see that a number of students are finding their own way into thinking about this issue and acting on it,” he said.

Nivison suggested partnering with the Bronx River Alliance, and Li and Royer quickly offered to help the organization, which shared common goals with them, Li said. “They were more than happy to have us help,” she said.

According to the Bronx River Park Alliance’s website, their mission “is to serve as a coordinated voice … so that [the Bronx River corridor and greenway] can be healthy ecological, recreational, educational and economic resources.”

As of now, 15 to 20 students are expected to participate in the April 20th event at the Bronx Park Forest, where they will clean the shores and plant new trees, Li said.

Charles Simmons (11) joined the initiative to help the environment outside of school, he said. “It wasn’t mandatory for me. As a runner, I sometimes take the outdoors for granted. I wanted to take a step back, really appreciate what I have, and give something back,” he said.

Similarly, Talia Winiarsky (10) joined the initiative because she felt guilty for her lack of eco-consciousness. “For the longest time, I got straws in my iced coffee,” she said.

Seize the Seas plans to continue the discussion on climate change with the Nature Conservancy’s urban spatial planner Mike Treglia visiting the school on April 15th and other speakers and events later in the spring.

“[Service learning’s] focus is on understanding that we’re all part of a wider community. It’s not a choice that we’re a part of it, it’s how we’re a part of it that’s our choice,” Leeds said.

Royer hopes that the speakers–mostly involved in the local community–will raise awareness of the effects of climate change within and beyond the walls of our school, she said.

“It is crucial for our HM community to expand our experiences, understanding, and actions as ecologically literate citizens,” Associate Director of the CCVA Kimberly Joyce-Bernard said.

Although organizing and coordinating events with the Bronx River Alliance has been “a lot of responsibility,” Li thinks it is necessary to endure the hardships for a greater cause, she said. 

“We really need to do something, even if it’s really small like planting trees and picking up garbage by the Bronx River. Every little bit helps,” she said.