On March 5, eight Emory University students came to Fernandina Beach to devote their Spring Break doing volunteer work. The group’s leader, Jenny Shen, contacted Amelia Island Earthkeepers President, Anna Occhuizzo, looking for an opportunity to volunteer on an environmental project, who introduced the group to the Greenway Preserve Manager, Kathy Russell. The undergrads, Zoe Robbins, Kate Li, Nicole Gullatt, Jenny Shen, Sneha Bathija, Pranjli Pandya, Julie Fowler, and Jennie Lin, spent six days dividing their time between working at the Greenway, Fort Clinch, and the North Florida School for Special Education in Jacksonville. The students’ energy and drive allowed them to accomplish great work during the six days they spent in the area.
The students, who hail from China, India, Dubai, Oregon, Georgia, Connecticut and California, some freshmen, a sophomore, and some juniors, ranged in studies from business to epidemiology to bio-engineering and environmental studies. They chose Earthkeepers and the North Florida School of Special Education to get a closer look at where their majors might take them, and to gain experience in areas where they shared an interest. The University is not granting them any credits for the work.
It was a packed week for the students beginning on Sunday when they mulched a section of the Greenway’s red trail and pulled invasive wild taro. The girls learned about the Greenway and identified some common native plants in the process. On Monday, they traveled to Berry Good Farms, the goal of which is to provide sustainable food in an ecological manner through the training of its Transition Students and the compensated employment of Post-Graduates, who continue to strive for independence and productivity in the community. There they participated in farming and the Barkin’ Bicuits program.
Back in the Greenway in the afternoon, the young women learned about salt marshes and native plants while at the site of the new Greenway viewing platform. They spent time that day around the viewing platform, a former dump site, where they removed some hurricane Matthew tree limb debris and picked up 2 wheelbarrows full of concrete and asphalt debris.
Tuesday morning was spent with the St. Mary’s Riverkeeper learning about water sample collection and water testing from local rivers. Tuesday afternoon they painted the pool deck at the Peck Center. Wednesday, it was back to the Greenway for more invasive species removal. Fort Clinch State Park Park Rangers took the group on perimeter monitoring on Thursday with clean up of invasive plants and trash. The eight ended their week with a beach cleanup day on Friday.
All in all they’re owed a big thanks for their help and achievements in our community!!
Students from left to right: Zoey, Sneha, Jennie, Pran, Kate, Nicole, Julie, Jenny, Earthkeeper Anna Occhuizzo, and water testing class student and Fernandina resident, Caris Feakes.