Submitted by upper school librarian Lauri Vaughan
San Jose city councilman Chappie Jones was on hand yesterday morning to thank Harker’s freshman class effort of trail preservation at the Coyote Open Space Preserve. Jones reminded the team of 200 students and their advisors of the recent natural disasters, referencing the North Bay fires as well as the hurricanes that ravaged the Caribbean, Texas and Florida last month. “We see how important our environment is. We have to protect it,” urged the councilman. “You are part of that protecting our environment.”
Also on hand was Marc Landgraf, external affairs manager of the Open Space Authority of Santa Clara Valley. “You guys are contributing to 50,000 people a year enjoying this preserve and that’s a big deal to us,” he said. “We really appreciate your being here.”
Soon after hearing Jones’ words of encouragement, Harker freshman broke into three teams led by park employees to widen and clear the four-mile Arrowhead Loop Trail and remove invasive, non-native plants from an adjacent meadow. The work was overseen by Dana Litwin, volunteer programs administrator of the Open Space Authority. Litwin garnered the help of a dozen employees and volunteers to train and shepherd the students’ labor. Litwin pointed out that “in one day, the students did what would take our staff hundreds of hours!”
The annual freshman service trip was coordinated by Harker’s upper school Green Committee, led by Spanish teacher Diana Moss. One of the primary goals of the committee, according to Moss, is “to see our students develop a greater appreciation for and deeper connection with the natural habitats that surround us here in the Bay Area. Our hope is that many of them choose to become stewards for the environment who can make a positive difference on the planet at a time when climate change threatens our future.”
The freshman service trip happens annually on PSAT Wednesday, when sophomores and juniors are taking the exam and seniors use the day to work on college applications. Traditionally, freshman advisors join their students in a daylong effort to help the newest members of the upper school enjoy the fulfillment of volunteer work and jumpstart their community service requirement. Students who participated will receive credit for five of the annual required 10 hours of community service.
Seeing an opportunity to mix environmental protection with volunteer work, the Green Committee took on the coordination of this year’s event. Both the Green Committee and the Open Space Authority planned this event to become an annual pilgrimage by Harker freshman.
Freshman Sarah Raymond embraced that mission. “I think that’s really cool for our school to make an impact, to be known as the ones to clean the trail here,” she said.
Classmate Aniket Kriplani agreed, noting that being part of a large team lessens the load. “It makes you feel like you are getting a lot more done. When you look around and you see a lot of people. Work gets done fast,” he said. “If you’re doing this alone, it wouldn’t be as fun.”
The Green Committee also worked with Harker kitchen staff to plan a reduced waste lunch. Trays of lunchmeat and veggies displaced individually wrapped sandwiches to minimize the need for plastic wrap. Students and advisors brought reusable water bottles from home thereby eliminating the consumption of single-use plastic bottles. Even the location, about 20 minutes from Harker’s upper school campus, reduced the emissions of a longer bus trip and kept students efforts close to home where they might return to appreciate their work in the future.
Jones echoed this sentiment. “Nature is part of our DNA as human beings,” said Jones. “Nature is that outlet where you can go and just breathe, relax and just enjoy the outdoors.”