Guest Post: Jan Sneddon, Director of GREEN
In the spirit of the holidays, I wanted to focus on the general idea of community this month. I have been fortunate enough to support this program for the past 11 years, and the role has taken me to so many impressive, resilient communities and allowed me to work with some outstanding community members. This is especially poignant to me at this time as I prepare to leave Earth Force for the next chapter of my professional career. Community has become ever more important to me since becoming a mom and since moving to Kalamazoo, MI.
When I first started at Earth Force back in 2005, we were in 21 communities, and I supported the program in Indiana and Ohio. Time passed, staff changed, the economy tanked, but one thing NEVER changed… GM’s commitment to GREEN and to the communities where GM employees live, work, and play.
I’m reading a book sent to me by one of my GREEN partners who has become a dear friend over the years (another amazing benefit of this job!)… David Sobel’s Beyond Ecophobia. In it, Dr. Sobel states, “ What’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it, before being asked to heal its wounds.” Community serves an important role in building that relationship.
This year alone, the program engaged 15,000 students in 109 schools in 42 communities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Those students monitored rivers and ponds, learned about water issues from community experts, and interacted with 297 GM employees and 31 community partners. With the support of these relationships, they designed and implemented 61 environmental projects aimed to improve their communities and the environment.
From Kapusaksing, Ontario, to Mansfield, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland, to Langley, British Columbia, I have met the most amazing people, identified macroinvertebrates in countless streams, and seen thousands of students connect with their place and their role as environmental citizens.
So as we come to the end of 2016 and the end of my time at Earth Force, I want to express the gratitude I have for being a part of this program, to have seen it grow and flourish and change and sustain. And I leave with a firm resolve to invest in my community, to know the wild places here inside and out, and to connect with as many other Kzoo residents as I possibly can. Because I know that community and being connected to the natural world are key to human happiness.
Author: Kristen Mueller
Kristen Mueller leads national communications, creating engagement and excitement around Earth Force, and its partners’, hands on, minds on programming. Specializing in traditional media and social media relations, she brings youth voice and leadership to the forefront of the environmental education field.