By: Dr. Lauren Sassenoff, Professor of English, LIU Post
All teachers who value the significance of education want to see their students flourish and gradually learn to trust their own sense of self. As an English professor and a College 101 professor, I have seen students thrive in the classroom and utilize the tools and resources they have developed in this environment of enrichment. However, this semester, I have had the privilege of observing my College 101 students further their sense of awareness and their independence by establishing their roots outside the classroom.
From the beginning of the semester, my College 101 class—comprised of the students, our amazing peer mentor, Stephanie Frobin, and myself—wanted our Service Learning Project to be something that is both original and create a sense of fulfillment. Thus, my brilliant peer mentor asked me a seemingly simple yet intelligent question: “Is there a way we can plant a tree?” Once we asked students for their input, they were enthusiastic to not only this idea but to rediscover the joy of the outdoors. Moreover, I realized that in order to better understand the environment and Sustainability, we must be in the most natural setting for such a project. Since we live in a digital age where most people go online in order to learn about issues involving our environment, our class decided to spread environmental awareness the old fashioned way: go outside and become one with nature. This was now becoming a metaphorically empowering project and a bold statement for the students as well as Stephanie and I: we are carving out our own path, and we are united on this quest to promote environmental awareness.
On November 25th 2014, our College 101 class set out near Suffolk Hall to plant our tree. I use the pronoun “our” because this tree is as much a part of me as this symbol of environmental enrichment is a part of Stephanie and every student in this class. Each student would dig and help to put the tree in its proper place. Additionally, we had a team of experts and LIU Post workers so committed to our goal of creating roots. Without them, this would all be for naught. Therefore, we thank them for their time, expertise, and kindness. What started out as such a seemingly impossible and small idea took us on a journey of awareness and unification for Sustainability.
I find myself in a very interesting and rewarding position. I have been a member of the LIU Post community for eleven years, as a student and now as a professor. Yet, it was not until this project came along that I truly felt I had put down roots. These roots are not only mine and Stephanie’s roots, but they belong to every single freshman we had the privilege of working with in College 101 this semester. Even though the semester is coming to an end, this project marks the beginning of everyone’s journey as well as everyone’s involvement with Sustainability.